The holiday season is here, and with it comes family, friends, merriment, and hopefully, some gifts! However, with this arrival also comes a swarm of winter illnesses. Unfortunately, a combination of weather changes, stress, and overindulging means that many of us will fall ill during this festive season.
In fact, the Office of National Statistics has reports in that the amount of sick individuals reaches its peak between the 21st of December and the 19th of January. Doctors’ offices, ERs, and hospitals fill up fast this time of year, and in an effort to keep everyone healthy this holiday season, we have put together this blog with some basic information on some of the more common winter illnesses and tips on how to keep you and the people around you healthy.
Colds are one of the most common winter illnesses. Colds are viral infections distinguished by runny noses, nasal congestion, sore throats, coughs, or headaches. A fever will also show at a low grade. Colds are caused by many different types of virus and can occur year round, although they are most prominent in the winter. The key to getting over most viral infections like colds is to rest, de-stressing, and eating and drinking properly until the virus passes.
Sore throats are common in winter and though they are not an illness but rather a symptom of an illness, they are almost always caused by viral infections. There is evidence that changes in temperature, such as going from a warm place like a centrally heated room, to the icy outdoors can affect your throat. One quick and easy remedy for a sore throat is to gargle warm salty water. It won’t heal the infection, but it has anti-inflammatory properties and can also have a soothing effect.
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, usually comes on quickly with a high fever, cough, sore throat, headache, and muscle aches and pains. The fever can last up to 5 days. There are some antiviral medications available to help fight the flu; however, these mediations only shorten illness duration by 1-2 days and must be started promptly to be helpful. Generally, these medications are only recommended to avoid more serious complications because of the flu. The best way to avoid this illness in yourself and your family is to make sure everyone gets their annual flu vaccine. Local clinics such as us here at myDoc Urgent care carry the flu vaccine and provide shots on a walk-in basis.
Not particularly an illness, but definitely a problem that many people face, dry skin is a common condition and often worsens during the winter, when environmental humidity is low. Moisturizing is essential during winter. Contrary to popular belief, moisturizing lotions and creams are not absorbed by the skin, but instead act as a sealant to stop the skin’s natural moisture evaporating away. The best time to apply moisturizer is after a bath or shower while your skin is still moist, and again at bedtime. Also, having warm as opposed to hot showers will make your skin feel less dry and itchy.
Unlike the many other common winter illness, pneumonia is often caused by a bacterial infection. Pneumonia can present itself in many different ways. Sometimes it starts as a cold that just continues to worsen, other times it will seem to get better then suddenly worsen again. If a cold persists for several days and you suddenly develop a high fever and worsening cough, this could be a sign of pneumonia. Any time there is trouble breathing you should seek a prompt healthcare evaluation as pneumonia could be the problem. Most of the time pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, but some more severe cases require hospitalization.
Strep is a common illness and is often seen in children. Strep frequently presents with a sore throat, headache, and stomachache. Some people get high fevers or vomit. Strep throat does not cause cold symptoms or coughing. It can usually be easily treated with antibiotics, and people with strep throat should be treated to help prevent later complications from this infection.
Staying health and out of the doctor’s office can be a challenge during the winter season. It is important to be aware of the spread of illness, and if you fall ill, actively try to contain yourself to not spread the illness further. Also, be vigilant if your simple cold begins to worsen into a more serious condition. And most importantly, if you are able to stay healthy, remember to enjoy the holiday season! From everyone here at myDoc, happy holidays!