Illnesses that commonly occur in winter

We all want to be in our best state of health. However, our health can be dependent on the weather. Some people develop the immunity to certain disease and illnesses while others remain susceptible, especially with the changing of the season. Winter is that time of the year when respiratory diseases are prevalent. People who are susceptible are those very young, very old, and those with a compromised immune system.

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Below are some of the common illnesses that take place during winter.

·         Common cold – It is a viral infection characterized by nasal congestion, cough, headache, sore throat, and low-grade fever. There are various types of virus that causes colds. In fact, common colds can occur at any time of the year but its prevalence is higher during winter months. Some people have mild colds while others have severe colds, which typically last for about a week.

·         Flu – This viral infection usually starts with a common cold and some people mistaken it for a common cold until further symptoms start to appear such as sore throat, cough, headache, high-grade fever, body aches, and pains. The high-grade fever lasts for up to five days. Flu can be prevented by having a flu shot every year.

·         Bronchiolitis – it is a type of viral respiratory infection. The clinical manifestations are cough with a wheezing sound, nasal congestion, and low-grade fever. The cause of bronchiolitis is RSV, which is a particular type of virus. It looks like a common cold at first but gets severe as time passed by, especially when the person complains of difficulty breathing along with wheezing sound and dehydration.

·         Norovirus – This illness is popularly known as the winter vomiting bug. It is a severe infectious stomach bug, which is particularly common during winter. It usually lasts for a few days and the typical characteristics include vomiting and diarrhea. The patient is at risk for dehydration and so it is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.

·         Strep Throat – This condition is common in school-aged children. The clinical manifestations are headaches, sore throat, and stomachache. In some instances, the child may experience vomiting and high-grade fever.  The child with a strep throat is treated with antibiotics.

What can you do to prevent illnesses during winter?

Although you cannot control the coldness of winter, fortunately, there are things you can do to shield yourself from diseases and illnesses that winter brings. Some of the things you can do to get yourself protected from winter-related illnesses include the following:

·         Make a habit of washing your hands regularly, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.

·         Stay away from people with active infections.

·         Cough into the tissue and not into your handkerchief.

·         Avoid going outside, especially when the weather is unforgiving.

·         Eat healthy and nutritious foods, especially hot soup.

·         Have a flu shot every year.

·         If you feel unwell, it is best to visit your doctor, especially if you have not been feeling well for five days.

Health/Conditions and Diseases

Sleep apnea – what is it and how to know if you have it?

Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by pauses in breathing while the patient is asleep. The pauses in breathing are caused by closing off of the upper passages of the airway causing the body to be deprived of oxygen. The patient wakes up in the middle of the night feeling choked and gasping for air.

In the United States, there are more than 18 million cases of sleep apnea and most of them go undiagnosed, which also means that they don’t receive appropriate treatment. Sleep apnea if left untreated and unmanaged could lead to serious medical conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular-related diseases, and stroke.

Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea you should watch out for include the following:

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·         Snoring – One of the common symptoms associated with sleep apnea is a loud snore. Many of us snore, especially when we had a long day. However, some people snore almost every night even if they are not tired. It has been a chronic scenario and many of them are not even aware of it. Snoring causes vibration which restricts the flow of air in the air passages. A snore that is associated with sleep apnea is characterized as loud, disruptive, and happens every night.

·         Frequent pauses in breathing – In people with sleep apnea, the tongue and fatty tissues of the throat become relaxed during sleep. The tongue blocks the airway causing an insufficient flow of air in the air passages causing the person to stop breathing for a few seconds. This caused a significant drop in oxygen level sending a signal to the brain to wake up from sleep.  The brain partially wakes up but your body remains asleep and you don’t even realize that you are partially awake. This interrupts the quality of sleep. It is one of the reasons why you feel restless upon waking up the following morning.

·         Feeling tired and exhausted – People sleep to give the body ample time to rest and recuperate. Upon waking up the next morning, you should feel relax and rejuvenated. If you feel exhausted and restless even after getting seven to nine hours of sleep, then most likely you have had sleep apnea episodes. Other symptoms include feeling tired all day, difficulty waking up in the morning, the need to take frequent naps, difficulty concentrating, and easy irritability.

·         Frequent headaches – Pauses in breathing at night caused a significant reduction in oxygen in the brain. This causes blood vessels to widen leading to vascular headaches.

·         High blood pressure – People with high blood pressure are prone to having sleep apnea. The spike in blood pressure is caused by an insufficient level of oxygen in the brain secondary to pauses in breathing during sleep. Every night, the body is used to having a restricted blood flow to the brain causing a spike in blood pressure.

·         Overweight/obesity – Sleep apnea is common in overweight or obese people, especially those who have excessive fat tissues in the neck and waistline.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is best to see a sleep specialist for thorough medical assessment.