While we’ve had a mild winter, the stress of the season, the constantly changing temperatures, and close contact with other people has still reeked havoc on our immune systems. We’re in the middle of cold and flu season, so here is some basic information on five of the most common “winter” illnesses as well as some tips on how to keep your family healthy.
The Common Cold
The common cold is a viral infection that can actually be caused by many different types of viruses. Colds can occur all year round, but they typically flare up more often in the winter months. Symptoms of a cold include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, headache, and low-grade fever. A cold is usually harmless. They tend to worsen over a period of 3-5 days then are completely resolved in about 7-10.
Bronchitis is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the bronchioles. The bronchioles are the smallest air passages in the lungs so this inflammation restricts a person’s ability to breathe. Other symptoms include nasal congestion, sore throat, low-grade fever, wheezing, and dehydration. Bronchitis starts similar to the common cold but instead of clearing up after a couple of days, it progressively worsens. After an evaluation from a doctor, most people can treat bronchitis at home, however, those with more serious cases may need hospitalization due to breathing problems and dehydration. When the worst of the illness is over, victims are still likely to have a cough that lasts for two more weeks or longer.
Pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection in the respiratory system that can manifest itself in a couple ways. It may start off something like a cold and then worsen. Sometimes it hits hard, starts to get better, and then gets worse again. If you have a cold for several days and your cough worsens or you have trouble breathing, seek evaluation. Most of the time pneumonia can be treated on an outpatient basis with antibiotics, but severe cases may require hospitalization.
Strep throat is an infection of the back of the throat and tonsils caused by the bacteria streptococcus that may cause a sore, scratchy throat. Other symptoms include headaches, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, stomach aches, and sometimes high fever and vomiting. Most people get better after a week of antibiotics. If strep throat is not treated, it can cause complications. Only patients who have been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours should return to work/school since strep throat is very contagious.
Influenza more commonly known as the flu is a common viral infection that can be deadly, especially in high-risk groups. The flu tends to come on quickly with high fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue which last up to five days. Not only is it a very serious illness, it’s also easily spread. Every year there are 3 million cases of the flu in the United States. The best way to prevent your family from contracting the flu is to get vaccinated.
With all the germs in the air, it’s important that you take precautions to keep your family healthy. Make sure you practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands before you eat or prepare a meal and after going to the restroom. If you are sick please stay home and don’t spread the illness to other people. In general, don’t go back to work until your fever has gone down for 24 hours without Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Also, make sure everyone in your family has had a flu shot. If you feel bad or if you need a flu shot, call us at 662) 348-3342 to make an appointment.