Winter is coming…and we along with House Stark need to be watchful for the many, many diseases that the cold season brings along with it. Although most of them are temporary and disappear within a couple of weeks to a month, ailments of the cold season may have a lasting and devastating effect on our health. Ranging from common cold to respiratory ailments and even heart attack (yes, you read it right), the cold months bring their fair share of woes. Let us discuss some of them, beginning with:
Because symptoms are quite alike, it may be tough to decide whether you have a bad case of the common cold or the flu. Usually, you feel the flu symptoms sooner than cold symptoms. Intensity of the flu symptoms is more; you feel tired for 2 to 3 weeks if you have the flu. The symptoms which are common with flu but not always with the common cold are:
Tiredness and weakness. More intense in flu; in common cold occasionally, but milder.
Temperature or Fever. You might have a low-grade fever in common cold, while in flu you get usually higher fevers.
Approximately 7 to 10 days is the normal time period for the common cold to last, but if your symptoms persist, you may need to call your doctor. As discussed before, the complications of common cold are many and, as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
As there are more than 200+ viruses that cause the common cold, there is no vaccine for it. However, there are certain precautions you can take to evade catching the common cold.
If someone has a common cold condition, avoid close contact with them.
Eat plenty of vitamin-rich vegetables and fruit to help keep the immune system strong against common cold.
Make sure you sneeze or cough into a tissue and dispose off the tissue carefully, and wash your hands.
Avoid close contact with anyone who is suffering from cold.
If you sneeze into your hands, wash them with soap and water immediately.
If no tissues or handkerchief is available, cough into the crook (inside) of your elbow and not in your palms.
Wash your hands regularly because touch between 2 people can transfer cold viruses. As a matter of fact, more germs are passed by shaking hands than by kissing.
Keep surfaces in your home clean, especially in the bathroom and kitchen.
Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth and nose.
Acute ear infection (otitis media). When viruses or bacteria enter the space behind the eardrum, this results in an acute ear infection. Typical signs and symptoms include earaches, and in some cases a yellowish or greenish discharge from the nose, or returning of fever following a common cold.
Asthma. An asthma attack can be triggered by cold.
Acute bacterial sinusitis. In children or adults, when a common cold does not resolve easily, it can lead to infection and inflammation of the sinuses, which is called sinusitis. For symptom management, nasal and oral decongestants can be used; however, antibiotics are required to treat this particular common cold condition and to avoid further infection, which could lead to other conditions like bacterial meningitis (in rare cases). Symptoms include aching sinuses, headache and nasal discharge.
Other secondary infections. Strep throat (streptococcal pharyngitis), pneumonia and croup or bronchiolitis in children are some of the secondary infections of the common cold. You need treatment by a doctor.
Acute Bronchitis. When the bronchi (or small tubes) in the lungs are inflamed as a result of either a viral or bacterial infection, you have what is known as acute bronchitis. If the infection is bacterial, antibiotics can be used for treatment; however, if it is viral, since the virus is not affected by antibiotics, it is common to treat the symptoms until the infection goes away on its own. Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and sputum are some of the symptoms of acute bronchitis.
Pneumonia. In this illness, the lungs are inflamed as well, but the reason is that tiny air sacs, also called the alveoli, fill up with fluid. Viruses or bacteria can cause pneumonia; however, the common cold virus does not cause pneumonia. If pneumonia occurs as a complication of a cold, it is most probably bacterial. Antibiotics may be prescribed. Symptoms include cough, chest pain, fever and breathing difficulties.
It is crucial to know that there is no cure for common cold. Hence, home remedies and medical treatments aim to minimize the symptoms connected with the common cold, giving time to the body to heal itself. The duration of about of common cold is usually around 10 days, although some symptoms can stay for as long as 3 weeks. Since both antivirals and antibiotics are ineffective against most of the viruses that cause the common cold (and remember, there are 200+ viruses causing it), the following steps may help mitigate the symptoms:
Being dehydrated while being infected with a common cold condition can make symptoms worse, so drink plenty of fluids and be well hydrated.
While the immune system is fighting off the common cold virus, it is important to get as much sleep and rest as possible, so get sufficient bed rest.
Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the fever or headache. Do not give aspirin to children under 16.
Inhaling steam for some people helps ease the symptoms of nasal congestion.
The cold winds, dryness and dust in the winter all contribute to cough symptoms. When you have any beverage of extreme temperature, it also triggers a throat infection. While driving a 2-wheeler especially in cold weather, always use scarves and stoles, or wear a helmet to protect yourself from the dust.
Usually, people with sensitive skin develop itchiness during the cold months. Applying olive, coconut or almond oil every night helps soothe the skin and prevents it from drying up (which usually causes the itching). The skin dries up because of the low humidity and cold temperature.
Chilly, cold winds can cause severe headaches. Therefore, a scarf or a warm muffler helps.
During the winter season, the air molecules become thinner and more constrained. Hence, individuals ailing from respiratory conditions, such as asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) may find it more and more difficult to breathe during extremely cold temperatures. To counter this situation, when venturing out in cold climes, covering the face and chest in warm clothing and scarves will help. Keeping your home smoke free as smoke can travel even through closed doors is another way to breathe easier.
Cold air is a major activator of asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath and wheezing. People with asthma should be especially careful when the climate is cold (for example, in winter) and stay indoors on very cold, windy days. When going out, wear a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth. Keeping your reliever inhalers close by is a must.
Most of us are oblivious to the fact that cold temperatures (like during winter) are one of the major seasons for heart attacks. The arteries become constricted when the temperature falls, therefore making pumping of the blood by the heart harder. According to some experts, people over 30 years of age should avoid fatiguing themselves in winter season. Also, eating in small quantities and not overeating is preferred.
Although there is no scientific proof that joint pains start or increase during the winter season, but there are many people who do suffer from those during the cold season. Keeping yourself and your feet warm is one of the most common remedies to get relief from joint pains. Another suggestion is to wear 2 or 3 pairs of thin clothing and not just 1 pair of heavy warm clothes when it is cold out there. Exercising helps too for getting rid of all joint and muscle stiffness. Basking in the sun is another prodigious way to get rid of the joint aches.
Headaches, coughing, congestion, runny nose as well as post nasal drip symptoms make you feel down during the cold season like winters. These sinus problems happen when there is not enough ventilation because the home is closed. To stay clear of sinusitis, get enough rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy and avoid dust.
This is also known as the vomiting bug and is an extremely transmittable stomach bug. Although it can strike at any time during the year, it is more widespread in the winter, in hospitals, nursing homes, hotels and schools. The elderly and young children are especially at risk. Oral rehydration fluids from pharmacies help mitigate the risk of dehydration.
We know that cold sores are an indication that we are either run down or under stress. There is no cure for cold sores. But you can decrease the odds of getting one by looking after yourself through winter by doing activities that make you feel less stressed such as going for a walk in the park, watching one of your favorite films or even having a hot bath.
When the color of your fingers and toes change color and become extremely painful in winter, this common condition is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon. Fingers can go white, then blue, then red, and throb and tingle. The small blood vessels of the feet and hands go into spasm, thereby momentarily reducing blood flow to your hands and feet. Not smoking or drinking caffeine helps since both can worsen these symptoms. Always wear warm socks and shoes and gloves when going out in cold weather.
People above 65 years of age, pregnant ladies and people with chronic health conditions including kidney disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are predominantly at risk of this during the cold months. The best way to keeping flu at bay is to have the flu vaccine. For children aged 2 to 17 years, flu nasal spray is available. The vaccine protects you against the flu and is effective for 1 year.
Now that you are well informed, take the necessary precautions and enjoy the season!
Diagnostic and Pathology Tests Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).
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