December is awaited with pleasure – the holidays, Christmas, and the endless plans for New Year make it worth the wait. But what is unwanted and comes uninvited is the common cold, among other ailments! While common colds can make your life miserable, that alone is not to be blamed. There are other infections and diseases too, that can affect your health in the cold winter months, making you cancel your bookings and plans at the last minute. Find out what these other infections are and prevent them ahead of time.
7 Infections That Come Along with the Winter
Winter brings with itself cold temperatures and lots of infections, which is why you need to prepare yourself to beat these infections in time.
1. Common Cold
The common cold tops our list; how can we move ahead without discussing it? The common cold, true to its name, is common all year round, and more so in winter. It is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by many different viruses. These viruses spread easily in the cold months as the air is generally dry around this time. So contrary to common beliefs, being in the cold weather does not cause the common cold; it’s the virus(es) outside that makes us fall prey to it, and not the decreasing temperature.
This infection is marked by a cough, runny nose or nasal congestion, sneezing, sore throat, and/or a headache. Kids may even have a fever. These symptoms can last for a few days to a week or two. It is a self-limited infection and doesn’t require medical attention. You can opt for home remedies for colds and take preventive measures, like washing your hands frequently, staying hydrated, and taking ample rest.
2. Strep Throat
Do not confuse a strep throat with a sore throat, because the two are not the same thing. A sore throat is painful but not as painful as a strep throat. A strep throat is an infection of the throat and tonsils, which is caused by streptococcus bacteria, that lives in your nose and throat.
A strep throat can affect people of all ages but is observed more in children and teenagers. Along with blaming the bacteria and viruses, of course, you can blame the common cold for it too. This infection spreads if you come in close contact with a person who is already a carrier of it. If that person sneezes or coughs, the bacteria is released in the air, which may infect you if you are anywhere close. The symptoms of a strep throat include swollen tonsils, fever, a headache, and stomachache. To cure this infection at the earliest, it is suggested that you seek medical help and drink plenty of water.
Sinusitis is a swelling of the tissue lining in the sinuses. The sinuses are a group of connected spaces in your skull, located between your eyes and behind your cheeks, nose, and forehead. If you have a cold, the virus causing the cold can infect your sinuses and result in the inflammation of the sinuses. A sinus infection usually flares up in winter as the air is dry outside which dries the mucous lining, causing the mucous to thicken; this further results in congestion and infection. Lack of proper ventilation in your house may also cause sinusitis. To make sure you’re not at risk of contracting this infection, stay away from dust and take the necessary steps to avoid catching a cold. Drink gallons of water, eat healthy, and get lots of rest.
This viral infection may not affect you but can affect your kids if they are very young, which is why we suggest that you know about this as well. Bronchiolitis usually affects children under the age of two. It’s a respiratory infection which is common during winter. Though there are many viruses that may cause this infection, the main culprit is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV); bronchiolitis caused by this virus is highly contagious. Bronchiolitis affects both, the lower respiratory tract – the lungs, and the upper respiratory region – the nose, mouth, and throat. As mucous clogs the airways, your child may find it difficult to breathe properly. Other symptoms of this infection include wheezing, coughing, a fever, and dehydration. It can be treated at home, but if your child is dehydrated or has difficulty breathing, the best thing would be to get him hospitalised.
5. Acute Ear Infection
Winter is also the time when ear infections are common, especially if you are already fighting a cold. The Eustachian tube that runs from the middle of both the ears to the back of the throat drains fluid (made in the middle ear). When this tube gets blocked, the fluid gets accumulated, which leads to an infection. Ear infections are more common in children than in adults. A cold or a sinus infection may result in an ear infection. To beat this infection, treat the cold and its symptoms. However, if the pain worsens, you can hold a warm compress against your ear or take medication as prescribed by your doctor.
Influenza is more commonly known as ‘flu’ (makes it sound less severe, doesn’t it!). Catching the flu is common during winters and is often ignored because its effects aren’t serious enough to lead to hospitalisation, at least not in adults. It is marked by a cough, a headache, high fever, a sore throat, and muscle pain, and may last for 3-5 days. To recover from the flu quickly, drink fluids (lots of water, preferably warm liquids, like soups) and take rest. Preferably, get a flu shot before its extremely cold to keep the flu at bay.
Pneumonia is an infection that causes the inflammation of one or both the lungs. It is more prevalent in winter and can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses. You can catch pneumonia if you have a cold or the flu. If you have long-term diseases like a heart problem, cancer, or asthma, then you may be at higher risk of catching pneumonia. Its symptoms include colds, a fever, difficulty in breathing, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea, etc., and therefore, should not be ignored. If you face difficulty in breathing, contact your doctor immediately. Do not take it lightly because pneumonia needs treatment!
Preventive Tips for Winter
While you cannot beat the cold and flu at the last minute, you can do something to beat them from biting you in the first place. Try these preventive tips to not fall sick in winter.
- Wash your hands, a lot! By washing, we mean using soap, lathering it up for 10 seconds, and then rinsing. Washing your hands frequently can prevent the viruses from transmitting. The virus responsible for the common cold may survive on your hands for up to 3 hours. If you touch your face, nose, or mouth during that time, you could get infected. So wash your hands (thoroughly), a lot more than usual.
- Get a good night’s sleep, every night. Set a bedtime routine that you know you will follow. Get at least 8-9 hours of sleep. When your body is well rested, it will heal quickly. So quit checking your Instagram posts before going to bed because they won’t help you stay fit. Get the rest you need!
- Stay away from people who have a cold or some other infection. You don’t have to abandon the person completely; you can hang out again once they get better! Staying away from a person in your family with a cold is not possible, but if you avoid using their belongings or sharing plates or spoons with them, you can beat that virus before it breaks you!
- Get a flu shot. To prevent catching the flu during winter, getting a flu shot can be the best thing you can do. So, don’t miss it and stay immunized.
- Drink water and maintain hygiene to prevent catching a cold.
All these infections can ruin your winter plans and force you to spend your holidays lying sick in bed, so take precautionary measures starting now. Watch out for these infections and their symptoms, and prevent them. Happy holidays, people!