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Your Winter Health Checklist

Your Winter Health Checklist

The holiday season can put a lot of stress on our bodies. From running around doing last-minute shopping to getting the house ready for holiday guests, many find themselves missing out on sleep. When you throw in the extra time spent indoors, it’s a perfect situation for germs and illnesses to spread.

Steps to Having an Illness-free Winter

Indeed, flu season is here, and the best course of prevention is through a flu shot, but there are several other viral and spreadable illnesses that could leave you coughing and sneezing. So to ensure your winter is as healthy as can be, we put together a checklist of preventive tips so that you can make it through the next few months without a sick visit:

Start With Your Lung Health

Winter's cold, dry air allows viruses to linger, putting your lung health in jeopardy. Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma should be cautious of colder days and large crowds, as the chance for a disease is higher over the next few months.

Protect yourself: To ensure your lungs can handle the bitter cold, it’s essential to bundle up with a scarf and always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Keep track of the temperature: Colder days will irritate your airways and could increase your chance of a cough. If you have a family activity or workout planned for outdoors, make sure it’s not when the temperatures have dropped. If it is, listen to your body, breathe through your nose, and always keep an inhaler or breathing medication on hand.

Practice germ prevention: Illness is indeed higher in the winter due to spending more time indoors, so when you can’t avoid crowds, germ prevention is a must. Remember to wash your hands often, avoid touching any railings, and if you are coughing or sneezing, stay home.

Preventing Other Illnesses

Though a cough or runny nose could be a cold, it's essential to know the symptoms and risk factors of some more serious illnesses. From myths surrounding them to when to see a doctor, here are the common winter culprits that could leave you at home feeling unwell:

Pneumonia

An infection that leads to inflamed lungs and air sacs filled with fluid, pneumonia is more common than most think. Symptoms can often mimic other respiratory issues and are spotted by fever, cough, and trouble breathing.

There are a lot of misconceptions about pneumonia that might lead some to avoid treatment. For instance, many think that complications only occur in those over 65 years old. However, those with compromised immune systems are at risk, too.

You may also be a carrier for pneumonia without showing any signs or symptoms, so always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Read more » Pneumonia Myths and Facts.

Understanding RSV

You may know someone or seen someone ask for you not to touch or kiss their baby, and there is often good reason for that. Though it's a virus healthy adults can easily overcome, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is strong enough to put some infants in the hospital. A virus that causes illness of the nose, throat, and lungs, RSV starts spreading in late fall and can continue until early spring. Here’s what you should know:

Spreading RSV

RSV is spread through droplets from a cough or sneeze. Once those droplets make contact with your eyes, nose, mouth, or hands, you become a carrier.

It's important to remember that the virus can also live on surfaces, making it vital to wash your hands when in public.

But most importantly, direct contact, such as kissing, can spread RSV too, making it essential not to infect those who could be at higher risk. Though innocent, a simple act like kissing a baby's hands, which they will eventually put in their mouths, could leave them at risk. Be mindful of how often you wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose, and avoid kissing on the cheek or hands if you feel sick or believe you have been exposed.

Symptoms

For infants, the first symptoms might be irritability and breathing difficulties. In general, symptoms will occur in stages, with the most common including:

  • Runny nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV is the most common cause of infection in children younger than one year. If not treated, it can lead to further complications and illnesses. Premature infants, adults over 65, and children with chronic lung or heart disease are at a higher risk for hospitalization.

Bronchitis Facts

Spread in a variety of ways, another common winter illness that you’ll want to avoid is bronchitis. For some, bronchitis can subside on its own, but for others, it can be chronic and recurring. Common signs of bronchitis include sore throat, runny nose, wheezing, and cough after an initial infection.

Here’s how to know if your bronchitis is acute, chronic, contagious, or noncontagious:

Chronic vs. Acute: Acute bronchitis typically subsides within 10 days, but the cough may linger for a few weeks after the fact. Chronic bronchitis is when symptoms last for several weeks and come back, often common for those living with asthma or emphysema.

When it's contagious: The most common cause of bronchitis in adults is through infection (viral or bacterial), same as those that lead to a cold or the flu. If irritation, rather than a virus, causes your bronchitis, you’re are not contagious. For instance, if exposure to chemicals or smoke has caused your symptoms, you cannot spread your bronchitis. However, when an infection is to blame, mucus droplets through a cough or sneeze will spread the disease to others.

When to see a doctor: When fever rises, or chest pain and trouble breathing accompanies the primary bronchitis symptoms, you’ll want to see your doctor.

Overall, remember to get proper rest, stay hydrated, wash your hands often, and avoid large crowds when feeling under the weather. If you do fall ill or have lingering symptoms that won’t go away, the Walk-in Clinic in Gillette, Wyoming, is here to help.

We can provide you with the personal and quality care you need. Save your spot in line or walk-in today! Learn more at www.cchwyo.org/wic.