Winter Health Guide

Stay safe and healthy this winter by planning ahead. Learn how to prevent and identify cold-related illnesses, and how to stay safe and healthy during extreme cold and winter storms.

Winter Health Guide

Winter Health Guide

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Wilmington, NC 28412

Colds, flus and other upper respiratory infections become far more prevalent during the colder months of the year. This is due to a number of reasons; primarily, people are spending much more time indoors when it’s cold outside, meaning that viruses and germs can be passed between individuals much more easily than if they were outdoors. Additionally, cold, dry air can weaken the body’s resistance to infection and make it more susceptible to catching illnesses.

When you’re dealing with coughing and sneezing during the winter months, it can be difficult to determine whether your symptoms are caused by a cold or something more serious. Your doctor may recommend antibiotics if it’s something else, but even if you don’t need medication, it’s important to know whether your illness is contagious.

Common Cold

The common cold is so named as it is a very common viral infection affecting the nose and throat. It can be caused by numerous types of viruses, but the condition is usually not serious and resolves itself within two weeks. Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, sore throat, and watery eyes. In some cases, fever may occur as well. People generally recover on their own without any medical intervention. However, if symptoms are severe or last longer than two weeks, it is recommended to see a doctor, especially for children.

Can the common cold be prevented?

The best way to keep yourself from catching a cold is to make it a habit to wash your hands regularly, and try your best to stay away from people who have a cold. Also, when you are around someone with the common cold, make sure not to rub or touch any of your facial features, such as your nose or eyes.

If you are the one with a cold, make sure to cover your sneezes and coughs with facial tissue and dispose of it carefully. You should also remember to wash your hands right after. Finally, keep surfaces clean by using the appropriate disinfectants that can kill viruses – this will help reduce the spread of the common cold.

Flu

Also known as influenza, the flu is an incredibly common and potentially deadly viral infection that affects the lungs, nose, and throat. It can be particularly dangerous for young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses. The symptoms of the flu usually include a fever, chills, muscle aches, a cough, congestion, a runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. Generally speaking, treatment for the flu includes plenty of rest and fluids while allowing the body to fight off the infection on its own. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers can help reduce some of the symptoms, however an annual vaccine is often recommended to prevent the flu and limit its complications.

Can the flu be prevented?

Each fall, a new flu vaccine is released to help protect people of all ages from getting the flu. The flu shot is recommended for everyone aged 6 months and up, but it is particularly important for certain groups of people such as pregnant women, young children, and elderly individuals. It is also important for anyone who wants to avoid the misery of the flu. The vaccine is safe and has been given to hundreds of millions of people without any major side effects. The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on factors such as age, overall health and lifestyle.

Acute Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways, known as bronchi, that line the lungs. This inflammation can lead to increased mucus production and other changes in the body’s normal respiratory processes. Acute bronchitis, also referred to as a chest cold, is the most common type of bronchitis and typically lasts for two weeks or less. Generally, a cough associated with this type of bronchitis is known to linger for up to eight weeks in some patients.

Can acute bronchitis be prevented?

Acute bronchitis is a respiratory condition that can cause a variety of bothersome symptoms, such as coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. While it can’t always be prevented, there are several immunizations that can help to reduce the risk of developing complications related to this condition, such as pneumonia. It’s recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider to determine which immunizations are right for you. Additionally, it’s important to practice good hygiene habits, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding close contact with people who may be ill.

Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways that facilitate breathing: bronchi. This condition occurs due to swelling, mucus production, and other changes in the air passages. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute bronchitis tends to be a short-term illness, whereas chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition. People who smoke, or are often exposed to air pollutants and other irritants, are more likely to develop chronic bronchitis. Those with chronic bronchitis may also have flare-ups of acute bronchitis as symptoms worsen. Common symptoms of both forms of bronchitis include coughing (with or without mucus), chest pain or tightness, and difficulty breathing.

Can chronic bronchitis be prevented?

Chronic bronchitis is a serious respiratory condition that is predominantly caused by smoking. The best way to prevent this ailment from occurring is to completely abstain from all forms of smoking, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and any other related products. It is also imperative to stay away from secondhand smoke, as this can be just as dangerous. Additionally, lung irritants such as air pollution, chemical fumes and dusts should be avoided whenever possible. Making small lifestyle changes such as these can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic bronchitis.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames air sacs in one or both lungs, which may fill with fluid. With pneumonia, the air sacs may fill with fluid or pus. The infection can be life-threatening to anyone, but particularly to infants, children, and people over 65. Symptoms include cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. In most cases, pneumonia is caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It can also be caused by breathing food or vomit into the lungs (aspiration). The risk of getting pneumonia increases if you have a weakened immune system or chronic health problems like diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease. Smoking also increases your risk.

Can pneumonia be prevented?

Vaccines are incredibly important when it comes to protecting yourself from pneumonia, as they can help protect against certain types of the infection. Practicing good hygiene habits, like washing your hands regularly, will also go a long way in preventing the disease. Additionally, it’s important to look after your body and give it the nutrients it needs by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Quitting smoking, as well as avoiding second-hand smoke, is also key to reducing your risk of pneumonia.

Whooping Cough

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can be easily prevented with the help of a vaccine. Unfortunately, it is especially dangerous for infants, causing severe coughing spells that sound like a “whoop.” Common symptoms of whooping cough include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and intense coughing. If left untreated, the disease can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, seizures and even death in some cases.

Can whooping cough be prevented?

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. Even though it is thought that the disease originated centuries ago, it is still around today and can have serious consequences, especially for small babies who do not yet have a fully developed immune system. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and others in the community from getting whooping cough.

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