How you can cope with winter illness

Don’t panic over colds/flu, hints to get you through

a man taking his temperature

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,
  • coughing
  • sore throat, hoarseness
  • ear pain, fullness
  • fever,
  • body aches, fatigue, 
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea 
  • headache.

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.

diagram of the nose and sinuses
Winter illnesses commonly affect the nose, throat, sinuses, ears and lungs.

Don’t panic.

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 .

a woman taking her temperature
This photograph depicted a woman who was using a modern, battery-powered oral thermometer, in order to measure her body temperature. In order to return an accurate reading, this particular type of thermometer needed to be placed beneath the user’s tongue, for a set amount of time, beeping when the ambient, sublingual temperature was reached. Photo credit-James Gathany, CDC, public domain

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)

“Rhino” obviously means NOSE.

What you need to know about influenza. 

Stay home.

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.

Wash hands.

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. Don’t forget to clean your cell phone, tablets, and keyboards too. 

Hand hygiene saves lives.
a common sight now in public restrooms

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.

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

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

 Be patient

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.



I would love for you to share this  information (but not our germs) on your social media pages.

And follow Watercress Words for more information, instruction, and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH .


My favorite home remedy for a cold is a warm cup of tea,

it always makes me feel better.

White House China teacup

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Free Samples with every order

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

19 thoughts on “How you can cope with winter illness”

  1. I’m so glad I found your blog on #BloggersPitStop!!! Now following and shared this post. I have a son with Autism that seems to get sick quite often, this was very interesting. Bookmarked.
    Thank you and glad to virtually meet you, Aletha, I look forward to virtually visiting often.
    Hope this weekend treats you kindly. 🙂


  2. This is such informative info. I’m hoping to be able to avoid becoming sick this winter. Anything that will soothe a sore throat is what I like. Throat drops, chicken noodle soup. For congestion: tea, ThermaFlu, and mentholatum rubs. I hope everyone here stays healthy this winter!


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