Where I live we recently had our first freeze of the winter. It gets dark earlier now since we “fell back” to standard time. And we’ve already had our first reported cases of influenza, which I reviewed in a previous post.
Chances are you or someone close to you will have a respiratory illness this winter , illnesses we frequently just lump into the category of “colds and flu”. This usually means illnesses with some combination of these symptoms-
- Sneezing, stuffy or runny nose,
- sore throat, hoarseness
- ear pain, fullness
- body aches, fatigue,
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
We call these by various names but they have much in common, including symptoms and treatment. Let’s talk about what you can do to cope when they hit your family.
Most otherwise healthy people recover from common respiratory illnesses. You may be miserable for several days, and need several weeks to feel back to normal, but you won’t suffer any permanent harm.
Fever ,especially in children, alarms parents. Don’t ignore it but don’t panic either. Reading this post should help you keep calm about fever .
Some people are at risk of developing severe symptoms and serious complications from respiratory illnesses, so seek medical help sooner, rather than later. These include
- Infants, especially under one month old
- Elderly, now a relative term, advanced age, especially combined with chronic disease
- Those with chronic lung disease, like asthma, COPD, emphysema, cystic fibrosis
- People on drugs that suppress the immune system
- Other chronic diseases – diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer
If you are not sure if you fit into one of these categories, ask your doctor.
Check here for tips on
the difference between a cold (acute rhino-sinusitis) and flu (influenza)
What you need to know about influenza.
This is when you shouldn’t share- germs that is. These illnesses spread person to person, so minimize contact.
Keep your kids home from school and stay home from work, at least the first few days, when you are the most contagious. When there is widespread illness in your community, avoid crowds and public gatherings.
Resting, getting extra sleep, drinking fluids and staying warm and dry make staying at home therapeutic.
Speaking of person to person contact, the best way to avoid getting or giving germs is to wash your hands often, but especially after being with others ,using a restroom, and before cooking or eating. Cleaning household surfaces helps too, as well as clothing and linens.
Use medication wisely.
Some of these illnesses have a specific medication that clear it faster- strep throat, influenza, pneumonia. The others will “run their course” and meds are used to help relieve symptoms.
Many people assume that any illness with fever, sore throat and cough will improve with an antibiotic. The fact is, most will not. Antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria, and most of these are caused by viruses. To learn more read about
How to navigate the antibiotic highway
These illnesses cause the greatest overuse of antibiotics, contribute to the cost of health care, and the development of antibiotic resistance. Please do not insist on an antibiotic if the doctor says you don’t need it; if offered an antibiotic, ask why.
Does nasal drainage and congestion need treatment with an antibiotic?
Maybe not. Learn how to sort out sinusitis.
WebMD offers this advice on choosing non-prescription cold remedies
The “24 hour virus” is for the most part a myth. Expect to be ill anywhere from 3 to 10 days; some symptoms, especially cough, can linger for weeks. If you are a smoker, this is a great time to quit.
But if after 7-10 days you are getting progressively worse, instead of better, something more may be going on, so it’s wise to seek professional medical help.
exploring the HEART of winter illness
Please help your friends by sharing this information (but not your germs) on your social media pages.
My favorite home remedy for a cold is a warm cup of tea, it always makes me feel better.
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3 thoughts on “How to cope with winter illness”
Lots of good advice to think about as we head into cold and flu season!
Thank you. Yes it always arrives sooner than we would like. We have not had influenza reported in our community yet, but it is sure to come. I hope it will be mild this year. Stay well.