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Winter Respiratory Illnesses

Winter Respiratory Illnesses: Prevention, Symptoms

Winter Respiratory Illnesses

Prevention, Symptoms & When to Go to the ER

There is always an increase in respiratory illnesses during the winter months, including colds, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The cold, dry air can weaken our immune system and drive people to stay indoors more, making it easier for viruses to spread.

If you find yourself sneezing and coughing in the coming months, how do you know if you have a cold or a more severe illness?

Let’s look at the most common illnesses we will experience during winter

Colds

Many types of viruses can cause this upper respiratory infection. While you can get a cold at any time during the year, they are more frequent during colder months.

Symptoms are typically mild and pass within a week or ten days. So, most people don’t need medical attention when they have a cold. However, if you notice your symptoms are not improving or are getting worse, it’s wise to speak to a doctor.

Cold Symptoms

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Mild body aches or headache
  • Slight fever
  • A general feeling of being unwell

 

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should see your doctor if you have one or more of the following:

  • Symptoms that last 3-5 days
  • Severe or unusual symptoms
  • If your baby is under 3-months of age and has a fever or is lethargic

Know Where to Go in Case of an Emergency.

The Flu

Experts expect this flu season to be more severe than in previous years. The reason is that during last year’s lockdown, with the increased safety measures, including masks and physical distancing, more people avoided getting the flu. And most did not get their annual flu shot which helps our immune system combat the influenza virus.

Flu Statistics

Last year was an atypical flu season, with less than 2,000 cases reported. But during the 2019-2020 flu season:

  • There were an estimated 18-26 million doctor visits due to flu symptoms
  • Between 410,000 and 740,000 Americans were hospitalized with the flu
  • And anywhere from 24,000 to 62,000 died from the illness

Symptoms

Flu symptoms are similar to those of a cold but are generally more severe and develop faster

  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever, feeling feverish or having chills (not everyone gets a fever)
  • Some, especially children, may experience vomiting and diarrhea
Pediatric Emergencies Capability

Complications from the Flu

Most people recover from the flu within one or two weeks. However, some can develop complications that range from moderate to life-threatening and include:

  • Sinus and ear infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma flare-ups
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (the condition is life-threatening)
  • Inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscles
  • Secondary infections
  • Multi-organ failure

When to Go to the ER

Should you experience any of the following emergency warning signs of the flu, please rush to the nearest ER:

Warning Signs in Children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Unable to eat
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • They don’t have tears when crying
  • Being unusually irritable
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and a worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

 

Warning Signs in Adults:

  • Having shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Confusion
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and a worse cough

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

This common and highly contagious respiratory virus usually has mild cold-like symptoms. Those who get it typically recover within a week or two.

However, the illness can be serious for infants and older adults. As a matter of fact, RSV is the leading cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) in children under the age of one.

Pediatric Emergencies Capability

Symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Coughing – with yellow, green, or gray mucus
  • Sneezing
  • Trouble breathing or pauses in their breaths
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Signs of dehydration (no tears, little or no urine, cool, dry skin)

 

When to Go to The ER

Please call 911 and get immediate medical attention if your child has one or more of the following:

  • Has trouble breathing or very fast breathing
  • Their lips or fingernails have a bluish tint

COVID-19

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still among us. And winter seems to bring out the worst of the coronavirus.

We are still dealing with the effects of the Delta variant, and now we have the looming shadow of the Omicron variant.

Omicron is a concern because of the number of mutations the virus has. While there is still much we need to learn from this new variant, this is what we know so far:

  • The Omicron variant likely will spread more quickly than the original SARS-CoV-2
  • There is insufficient data to know if omicron infection, reinfections, and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated can cause more severe illness or death than previous variants
  • Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness and hospitalizations, and deaths from omicron infections
  • Some COVID-19 treatments are likely to remain effective, while others may be less effective

The good news is that when it comes to COVID-19, what we do has great significance in the future. So, if you haven’t received the vaccine, please do; this will reduce the risk of developing severe illness, long-term complications, or death.

Preventing Respiratory Illnesses

Because most respiratory illnesses are viral, the same prevention tips apply to all:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Keep a physical distance of at least 6-feet when in public
  • Wear a mask
  • Get vaccinated – You can have the COVID-19 and Flu vaccines at the same time-
  • If you are feeling unwell, stay home. Please don’t send your children to school when they have cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Avoid being near people who are sick

 

Altus Emergency Centers offer four convenient locations in Lumberton, Baytown, Waxahachie, and Lake Jackson. Our experienced staff is available around the clock to treat all respiratory illness emergencies.

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