Learning how to recognise common winter illnesses can make it easier to care for your family. Picture: Pexels / Karolina Grabowska
Learning how to recognise common winter illnesses can make it easier to care for your family. Picture: Pexels / Karolina Grabowska

From bronchitis to cold sores - how to deal with common winter illnesses

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published May 26, 2021

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Winter can be a tough time to stay healthy. Learning how to recognise common winter illnesses can make it easier to care for your family.

Take a look at some of the most common winter aches and how to deal with them:

Bronchitis:

What is it?

Inflamed bronchi (the big tubes that bring air to the lungs), resulting in overproduction of mucus. Bronchitis is considered chronic if you have a mucus-producing cough at least three months a year, two years in a row.

What should I do?

The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms, so you can breathe more easily. If you smoke, quitting is recommended. Oral or inhaled medications can open your airways. In severe cases, you might consider lung reduction surgery or a lung transplant.

When to see a doctor?

You have a cough that lasts more than three weeks, produces bloody or discoloured mucus, or is paired with a fever.

Cold sores:

What is it?

Cold sores are small blisters around the mouth. They are also called fever blisters. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus. The most common strain of the virus causing cold sores is herpes simplex virus 1. It can be spread by kissing or sharing eating utensils or even sharing towels.

What should I do?

The over-the-counter cold sore ointment docosanol (Abreva) may shorten the healing time of a cold sore. At the first sign of symptoms, apply it to the affected skin as directed on the package. Use a cotton-tipped swab to put medicine on a cold sore. This helps prevent the spread of the sores to other parts of your body

When to see a doctor?

Cold sores generally clear up without treatment in two to four weeks. Make an appointment with your family doctor if your cold sores:

• Are lasting or severe.

• Return often.

• Are accompanied by eye discomfort.

Sore throat

What is it?

Sore throats aren’t always caused by being sick. Cold air can dry out the tissue in the throat and can cause severe irritation. Symptoms can be made worse when breathing through the mouth rather than the nose. Because of this, it is common for people to have a sore throat from cold weather after exercising.

What can I do?

Speaking on medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists, Dr Marty Trott says humidification is key, particularly in the home and it's a trade off, because the more we humidify our homes the potentially more we can get allergens in the home. “But I would tell people that if they're very dry every morning that it's a good idea at least in the bedroom to get a humidifier in the bedroom and run the humidifier all the time with the bedroom door closed. That would keep the relative humidity at least in that area up.”

When to see a doctor?

In most cases, your sore throat will improve with at-home treatment. However, it's time to see your doctor if a severe sore throat and a fever increases you temperature and lasts longer than one to two days; you have difficulty sleeping because your throat is blocked by swollen tonsils or adenoids; or a red rash appears

It’s also important to note that reducing the risk of common winter illnesses always begins and ends with washing hands frequently. When you’re on the go, sanitising gels, tissues and wipes are great to keep in your car or nappy bag.

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