These are the 5 most common winter illnesses and their symptoms

  1. The Common Cold
  2. The Flu
  3. RSV/Bronchitis
  4. Strep Throat
  5. Gastroenteritis

Along with colder weather, the winter months bring a myriad of illnesses that can affect the entire family. At Iola Hospital Pharmacy Management, we know that learning how to recognize common winter illnesses can make it much easier to recover if you or a loved one gets sick. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you determine the best course of action when ailments arise. 

Take a look at the 5 most common winter illnesses and their symptoms so that you have the information you need to make the proper care decisions when you fall ill. 

1) The Common Cold 

The cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract that peaks during the winter months. Several different virus strains can cause colds, and while they can be contracted all year round, they are more easily spread in the winter months because of the increased indoor time and close face-to-face contact. 

Once contracted, symptoms can take several days to develop and include a stuffy, runny nose, a sore throat, and a cough. Over-the-counter medication and nasal sprays can help alleviate symptoms. 

2) The Flu 

Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu (not to be confused with the stomach flu), is a respiratory illness most frequently contracted from October to May. The flu is relatively contagious, quickly spreading from person to person through coughs, sneezing, person to person contact. 

Symptoms of the flu include fever, chest congestion and cough, muscle aches, chills, and overall fatigue. For generally healthy individuals, rest, fluids, and self-care will help the illness to subside in five to seven days, although the flu can lead to more severe illnesses like pneumonia.

3) RSV/Bronchiolitis 

Bronchiolitis is a relatively common respiratory infection caused by viruses, the most common being respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The infection and symptoms typically last one to two weeks, and severe or life-threatening cases generally are only seen in infants. 

The most easily identifiable symptom is wheezing, accompanied by difficulty breathing, sore throat, and dehydration.  Rest, lots of fluids, and a humidifier are the best ways to treat the infection. 

4) Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria and is most common in school-aged children. The infection typically only lasts one to two days but can be easily transmitted through person-to-person contact. 

Symptoms include sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and head or stomach aches. More severe cases may be accompanied by fever or a mild skin rash. The infection can be quickly and effectively treated with antibiotics. 

5) Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an acute stomach illness that has several causes, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The illness is highly contagious and transmitted through person-to-person contact and contaminated food. This sickness is unpleasant but usually runs its course in two to five days.  

Symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. There is no specific medication for treatment, but drinking lots of fluid and resting will help the illness subside.  

Practice Prevention 

It’s essential to practice good hygiene all year round, but especially in the winter when close contact and increased time spent indoors make the transmission of illness more likely. Frequently washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing, and avoiding others when you feel sick are the best ways to prevent the spread and contraction of these illnesses. 

If you find yourself sick during the winter months, your immune system can likely handle it without intervention, but if you find yourself getting worse or not improving, it may be time to seek medical treatment.