Winter Illness: Health Problems and How to Treat Them

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The winter season is here, and the inevitable colds and flu. However, not all illnesses come in the form of a sneeze or cough. Some serious diseases like pneumonia also make their rounds during this time of year. To help you prepare for whatever may be coming your way in the coming months, here’s a list of seven illnesses to watch out for this winter:

1) Bronchitis

A respiratory illness where inflammation blocks airways leading into the lungs (known as bronchi). Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, and a cough that won’t go away.

Most medical treatments for bronchitis are directed at easing symptoms. These medications may include decongestants, cough suppressants, inhalers, mucolytics, and expectorants. If these medications do not work, a visit to your trusted medical clinic may be needed.

2) Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a medical condition that affects the lungs and is characterized by inflammation in or infection of one or both lungs’ air sacs (alveoli). Symptoms include fever, shaking chills, purulent sputum in cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Antibiotics or other medications fight off bacteria or ease symptoms. Some people are hospitalized for pneumonia because their medical conditions make them more vulnerable to the disease. These medical conditions include AIDS/HIV, COPD, cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart problems, etc.

3) Influenza


Also known as “flu,” it is a contagious respiratory disease caused by flu viruses infecting the nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms commonly include fever, muscle aches, cough, and fatigue.

Flu vaccines are available in hospitals to help prevent the illness from setting in. These vaccines must be administered before or during the winter months. After getting a vaccine shot, it takes about two weeks for the body to develop protection against the flu virus.

4) Rhinovirus

Often referred to as “the common cold,” a rhinovirus causes an infection of respiratory passages that can lead to all sorts of sicknesses ranging from headaches, sore throats, and stuffy noses to ear infections and pneumonia. It is highly contagious too. The good news is there’s no need for expensive medications; rest and plenty of fluids are enough to get rid of it.

5) Croup

A respiratory condition where the windpipe (trachea) that leads into the lungs becomes inflamed and narrows, making it difficult for air to pass in or out. Symptoms include a characteristic “barking” cough, hoarseness, stridor (abnormal sound made during breathing), wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

Croup is treated with rest at room temperature, humidified oxygen if needed, and coughing medicine if the child is old enough to have one. Some children are admitted to hospitals, so they can be closely monitored because croup can become serious very quickly.

6) Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is a medical condition with inflammation of the stomach lining and intestines. This disease is often caused by viral or bacterial infection through food contaminated by bacteria from feces. This disease causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Children are more vulnerable, so it’s important for parents to always monitor what they eat before feeding them to prevent further illness.

We humans seem to be more prone to catching tummy trouble during winter months—for better or worse. This is mainly because of the temperature changes; cold weather makes humans more susceptible to developing gastroenteritis. Other factors are at play, such as where you live, your access to clean food and water, how often you go outside, etc. Plus, most people are unaware that their homes are hotbeds of germs—between their pet hair carpeting floors, kitchen sponges that have been left wet on counters overnight, and sheets with soiled pillowcases.

Gastroenteritis is treated with rehydration in mild cases and fluids in severe cases. Sometimes vomiting will cause a loss of electrolytes that can be replaced by a shot if necessary.

7) Strep Throat

Strep throat is a common throat infection that is caused by bacteria. It can be severe, and if left untreated, can lead to other health problems. The best way to prevent strep throat is to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene habits. You always want to keep your hands clean.

Symptoms of strep throat include a fever, a sore throat, a headache, and usually swollen tonsils. Sometimes you can also have redness of the eyes or a skin rash. Strep throat is contagious, too. It spreads from person to person through oral secretions (i.e., saliva). You don’t need to touch someone else’s fluids to catch it; all you need is for them to cough or sneeze near you.

Treatment for strep throat usually involves antibiotics, but if caught within the first 24 hours of symptoms developing, usually an injection will do to clear things up quickly.

It’s always important to be aware of the different illnesses that can affect our health during the winter months. Viruses or bacteria cause the common cold, croup, and gastroenteritis, so it is best to practice good hygiene habits like washing your hands often with soap and water. This is the best way to prevent catching or spreading these contagious illnesses, especially when you are out and about around others who might not be practicing good hygiene habits.

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