Dr. Pat Romano, Family Medicine, Riddle Hospital
When the temperature drops and summer suddenly turns to
fall, we make adjustments. We start warming the car up in the morning, bringing
in potted plants or summer decorations so that they won’t deteriorate in colder
weather, we bring out heavier jackets and put away our summer wardrobes. Just
as we prepare our homes for the beginning of fall and winter, we can prepare
our health, as well.
Although sickness can strike at any point and in any season,
you’re less likely to be struck with a bout of bronchitis in the middle of July
than you are in December. Lower temperatures and more time spent indoors in
rooms with poor circulation can lead to an increase in respiratory infections,
which is why it’s important to arm yourself with the knowledge of how to
prevent or reduce your risk of being affected. Below, find some background and
prevention tactics for three common winter weather illnesses.
Almost everyone has been affected by the flu at some point.
If you haven’t had it, chances are that you know someone who has. The symptoms
are very similar to that of a common cold, including a runny nose, sneezing and
sore throat. But keep an eye out for additional symptoms, as well, like a
fever, achy muscles, headache, fatigue, and chills, which could be signs that
your cold isn’t all the common and could be the flu.
Your best defense against contracting the flu is to receive
the flu vaccination, which is often distributed at local hospitals or
pharmacies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the
vaccine for anyone over the age of six months, especially for groups that are
prone to the flu, like young children, pregnant women, and older adults. The
vaccine is often available either as an injection or as a nasal spray.
Bronchitis is a virus that has become associated with a dry,
painful cough. Like many other respiratory infections, the virus can stem from
another illness, like a cold or even the flu, which then develop into
bronchitis. In addition to coughing, bronchitis sufferers may also report
symptoms like fatigue, chest discomfort, and a slight fever and chills.
To prevent bronchitis from affecting you this winter, stay
away from some environmental irritants that might trigger a cough or cold, like
cigarette smoke and chemical fumes. Getting vaccinated to prevent the flu can
also prevent bronchitis, as the flu can be one of the causes for this virus.
Like bronchitis, sinusitis can occur as a result of earlier
illnesses, like the cold or flu. However, other triggers for sinusitis include
bacteria, allergies, and fungal infections. Although it may sound like
allergies are out of the question during the colder months, the fall and winter
can be just as difficult for allergy sufferers, due in part to moldy areas in
the home or dusty ventilation systems. Whether it’s caused by environmental
factors like these or a prior illness, most people who suffer from sinus issues
will notice symptoms like pain or swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose and
forehead, a cough, and aching in the jaw and teeth.
Acute sinusitis, which most people who are diagnosed will
experience, can be prevented by avoiding cigarette smoke, getting the flu
vaccine to decrease your risk for respiratory illnesses, using a humidifier,
and managing your allergies. If you are an allergy sufferer, cleaning out
particularly moldy or dusty areas of your home before the fall and winter can
help decrease your risk for sinusitis.
If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms or
think you may be getting sick, call your doctor to make an appointment.
Pat Romano, D.O., is
board-certified in family practice medicine and currently practices at Riddle Hospital.
He attended medical school and completed an internship and residency at Philadelphia College
of Osteopathic Medicine.
For more information on Dr. Romano, visit www.mainlinehealth.org.