Winter is typically the
peak time of year for viral illnesses.
During these months, more people are inside within close proximity to
each other making it easier to spread
viruses. Additionally, low humidity and dry nasal passages make us more
susceptible to catching these illnesses.
The three most common illnesses include the
common cold, influenza, and gastroenteritis. Prevention for each is similar with
frequent hand washing the most important tool. Avoiding touching your face is also
helpful. Viruses may be spread by
hand-to-infected-surface contact so it is important to disinfect surfaces at
home or work when there are sick contacts.
Annual flu shots are the best protection against the influenza
may last for several days to weeks with symptoms including runny
nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, low grade fever, mild body aches or
headache. Treatment includes over-the-counter
cold medications, such as decongestants, antihistamines, and cough medicine as
well as pain relievers including ibuprofen or Tylenol. Gargling warm salt water may help a sore
throat and petroleum jelly may help with chapped skin around the nose and lips.
Rest and increased fluids are also encouraged. Kids should not be given over the
counter cough or cold medications before checking with their
Peaks between December and February with symptoms including high fever,
headache, runny nose, sneezing, cough, severe aches and pains, fatigue, sore
throat, and extreme exhaustion.
Fever and body aches usually last for three to five days, but cough and
fatigue may last for two weeks or more. If started within two days of symptom
onset, antiviral medication such as Tamiflu may reduce the duration of symptoms
typically by 1 day. Otherwise,
treatment is symptomatic including medications to relieve aches and fever such
as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin), rest, and fluids. Flu
shots are typically available annually starting in September.
Gastroenteritis: Also known as
the “stomach bug” this usually hits in late winter or early spring and is highly
contagious. Typical causative bugs
include rotavirus and norovirus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
and usually occur 12-72 hours after contracting virus. Treatment typically
involves oral rehydration. Drinks
especially high in simple sugars, like soda and juice, may increase diarrhea and
should be avoided, especially in children. In more severe cases, IV fluids and
nausea medication may be required for
Most importantly, if
your symptoms are not getting better or you have concerns you should see your