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Top 5 Winter Illnesses & Ailments




The cold wintery weather can be the cause or trigger for a variety of health issues and problems. Everyday complaints such as the common cold and flu are more frequent, as are hospital acquired infections and viral infections such as norovirus. The cold months of the year also bring a higher risk of joint pains, arthritis flare-ups and a host of other conditions.

Common Cold

Most of us come down with the common cold at some point, and for some it is a regular affliction. It can affect anyone at any time, but is most commonly reported during the cold and rainy winter months.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults have an average of two or three colds every year. Symptom of a cold include sore throats, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, head and body aches and occasionally low grade fevers. There is no cure for a cold, but over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol, Advil, decongestant nasal sprays and cough syrups can help alleviate symptoms.

Flu

Like the common cold, influenza epidemics peak during the winter months, particularly between November and March. It is a respiratory illness spread through coughs, sneezes and contact with people who have the virus. The CDC estimates that up to 20 percent of people in the US come down with the flu each year. Its symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but they are often more severe and can last for weeks rather a few days. For young children, the old, and those with an existing medical condition, flu can be a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition so should be treated if symptoms persist. 

Annual flu vaccinations can prevent patients contracting the flu, but for those suffering from the condition, a number of treatments are available to minimize symptoms and help recovery. Fast acting treatments can relieve the aches, pains, blocked nose, sore throat and coughs that often come with an onset of the flu.

Asthma

Asthma affects more than seven percent of the adult population in the US, with more than 17 million people in the country suffering from the condition. It is the most common chronic disease among children, but affects people of all ages. The condition causes lungs and breathing passages to become inflamed and certain triggers such as cold weather and allergens cause flare-ups and attacks. Common triggers of asthma attacks include: upper respiratory infections, such as cold, flu and sinusitis; cold weather, physical exertion, and exposure to airway irritants. 

Asthma is a chronic condition, but sufferers are more prone to experiencing symptoms during the cold and wet months of the year as the cold air can cause bronchoconstriction. Fortunately, asthma can be controlled and treated with the right medication. Steroid-containing inhalers - such as those administering Beclometasone or Budesonide - are often prescribed to prevent asthma attacks. Short-acting reliever inhalers may also be useful to alleviate the symptoms of an asthma attack.

Norovirus

Norovirus, also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ is contracted through contact with contaminated food and interaction with contaminated people or surfaces. It generally lasts a few days and is most common between November and April. Patients are at their most contagious while sick, and in the days after symptoms start to abate. The virus causes diarrhea and vomiting and sufferers sometimes experience a slight fever, headaches, stomach cramps and aching limbs. It is important to drink plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others when suffering from norovirus. Medication such as Tylenol is used to alleviate aches and pains, while antidioarrhoel and or anti-emetic medication such as Imodium or Zofran can help with diarrhea and vomiting. 

Arthritis

Arthritis is a common chronic condition, but the symptoms are often experienced more severely during cold winters and the rainy months of the year.  It is an inflammation of one or more joints and the main symptoms are joint pain and stiffness. During the winter, many people exercise less and this, along with changes to barometric pressure, are thought to contribute to flare-ups among arthritis sufferers at this time of year. A number of different varieties of arthritis exist, but the two most common are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Causes vary, but they may include infection, underlying diseases such as psoriasis or build up of uric acid crystals. 

Treatment of arthritis is aimed at minimizing symptoms and improving the quality of life of those suffering from the condition.  Analgesics such as Tylenol may alleviate pain, while non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis may also be prescribed disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), for example Trexall or Plaquenil, which prevent the immune system from attacking the joints. Corticosoids, taken orally or injected into the join may also be used to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.

Stay healthy during the cold winter months and ensure you get the medication you need to treat conditions such as asthma, arthritis, cold and flu. 

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