Seasonal Health Risks
It always seems like everyone gets sick right around and after the holidays, doesn’t it? This year, it’s even worse than normal since winter has been so mild throughout the country. Allergens have persisted since there hasn’t been a steady freeze in many regions. Couple this with the usual viruses and infections making their rounds, and it’s a recipe for a rough season of sickness. Here are some of the more common illnesses to watch out for this winter.
Normally, allergies are the worst when plants start to bloom again in the spring. But in places like Florida, people have been struggling with seasonal allergies through even December and January since it has been so warm. Symptoms include a runny or congested nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, ear blockage, postnasal drip, and general sinus inflammation. Allergies are best treated with prescription steroid nasal spray, but over the counter medications can help as well.
The common cold gets its name because it is a year-round virus, but it is more easily spread in winter. That fact has nothing to do with the nature of the virus itself – it spreads faster because people spend more times indoors to avoid cold weather, so more germs collect inside. The symptoms of this virus are primarily upper respiratory issues, like allergies, but could carry with them, in addition, a sore throat or cough with a mild fever. There is no treatment for this illness, but over the counter medications can help you manage the symptoms.
In contrast to the common cold, influenza or the flu does spread more easily in cold conditions, which is why the winter is dubbed the “flu season.” Because of this, most healthcare professionals stress the importance of getting a flu shot to guard against catching the virus. More serious fevers, muscle aches, and fatigue accompany this virus, in addition to all the other symptoms of a common cold.
Perhaps the nastiest thing going around during the winter is the norovirus, commonly called the “stomach bug.” Contrary to popular opinion, diarrhea and vomiting symptoms aren’t due to the flu or influenza, but to the norovirus. It generally lasts 1-3 days, but an infected person is contagious for a few days after recovering.
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