Along with the drops in temperature and frost covering our windows, winter also brings challenges for our health.

Illnesses like colds, flu, and respiratory problems become more common during this time.

Affinity Health, a trusted healthcare provider, takes a closer look at common illnesses during the winter season. Exploring their nature, signs, and symptoms, as well as providing guidance on treatment.

Conquering winter illnesses

According to Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health, overcoming winter illnesses can be done through knowledge and the right mindset.

“Winter illnesses can be challenging, but we can conquer them with knowledge and a proactive mindset. It’s all about staying informed, prioritising self-care, and embracing a resilient attitude,” said Hewlett.

ALSO READ: Stay in and get fit in winter

Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock

Five illnesses to look out for this winter

Affinity Health has identified five illnesses that you should look out for during winter:

1. Influenza (flu)

Influenza is a contagious illness that spreads through the air when someone who is infected coughs, sneezes or talks.

It can also be passed on by touching surfaces that have the virus on them. Common symptoms of the flu include having a high fever, body aches, feeling tired, coughing, having a sore throat, stuffy nose, and headaches.

To feel better, it’s important to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter pain relievers. In more severe cases, doctors may prescribe antiviral medications to help treat the flu.

2. Common cold

The common cold is mainly spread by coming into direct contact with respiratory secretions from an infected person or touching surfaces that have been contaminated.

Symptoms of a cold usually include a runny or blocked nose, a sore throat, sneezing, coughing, mild tiredness, and sometimes a slight fever.

To alleviate symptoms, it is beneficial to rest, drink plenty of fluids, use over-the-counter cold remedies, and take pain relievers. It’s important to note that antibiotics are ineffective against the common cold.

3. Norovirus (stomach flu)

Norovirus is transmitted through contaminated food, water, or close contact with people who are infected.

It can also be spread by touching surfaces that have the virus on them. Typical symptoms of norovirus include feeling nauseous, vomiting, experiencing stomach cramps, having diarrhea, and sometimes having a mild fever and body aches.

It is important to stay hydrated to avoid dehydration. Resting the stomach and practicing good hygiene are crucial steps to take. In severe cases, medical attention may be required.

Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock

4. Bronchitis

Bronchitis can be transmitted through respiratory droplets when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.

It can also develop as a result of a viral or bacterial infection following a cold or flu. Typically marked by a lingering cough, bronchitis symptoms can also include chest congestion, difficulty breathing, a mild fever, fatigue, and sometimes wheezing.

To find relief, it is important to rest, drink plenty of fluids, consider over-the-counter cough suppressants and anti-inflammatory medications. If a bacterial infection is present, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

5. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It can be transmitted through respiratory droplets, inhaling airborne particles, or through a bloodstream infection.

Common symptoms of pneumonia include having a high fever, experiencing chills, feeling chest pain, having a productive cough, experiencing shortness of breath, feeling fatigued, and in severe cases, confusion.

Treatment for pneumonia often involves prescribing antibiotics or antiviral medications, depending on the underlying cause.

Along with medication, it is important to rest, stay hydrated, and take pain relievers. In severe cases, hospitalisation may be necessary.

Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock

How to protect yourself from these winter illnesses

Taking proactive measures and maintaining good hygiene are key to safeguarding yourself from winter illnesses.

Here are five important tips from Affinity Health:

  • Wash your hands frequently: It’s important to maintain good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of winter illnesses. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after coughing, sneezing, or being in crowded areas.
  • Get vaccinated: Ensure you get your yearly flu shot to shield yourself from the seasonal influenza virus. Vaccinations play a vital role in minimising the chances of catching and transmitting the flu.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette: When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow. Dispose of used tissues appropriately and steer clear of close contact with individuals exhibiting signs of illness.
  • Stay away from sick individuals: Limit your proximity to people who are sick, particularly if they have respiratory symptoms. If you are feeling ill, it is advisable to stay at home to prevent the transmission of illness to others.
  • Keep your environment clean: Take the time to regularly clean and disinfect commonly-touched surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, and countertops. This practice effectively eliminates germs that can lead to illness.

Hewlett emphasises that by implementing these preventive measures, you can greatly reduce the risk of winter illnesses and preserve your overall well-being throughout the season.

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