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When the season begins to change, our bodies become vulnerable to a host of new ailments. When dealing with the cold and flu, prevention is the best way to stay healthy.

Common Winter Diseases and How to Prevent Them

Cold 

Colds are caused by the rhinovirus, which is most active in fall and winter. Symptoms include sore throat, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and coughing. Colds typically last one to two weeks if appropriately treated. To avoid catching or passing on a cold, use these tips:

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after touching handrails and surfaces that others have touched
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as it allows for germs to enter more easily
  • Get plenty of sleep and avoid stress, as both play a role in how quickly a body can recover from an illness

Flu 

The influenza virus causes the flu, and symptoms include fever, chills, aches, headaches, fatigue, and nausea. In rare cases, the flu can lead to death. To avoid contracting the virus:

  • Get a flu shot; most universities and workplaces offer free or low-cost immunization programs during the months of September and October
  • Wash your hands frequently and adequately to minimize spreading germs
  • Don’t share drinks and eating utensils with others
  • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing to prevent the spread of germs

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a severe lung condition caused by viruses or bacteria. Signs and symptoms include fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. To avoid contracting pneumonia:

  • Wash your hands frequently and adequately to minimize spreading germs
  • If you have been in contact with someone sick, wash your hands thoroughly before touching yourself or others
  • If you suspect that you or a family member has pneumonia, immediately contact a doctor and see if they need to be hospitalized

Sinus Infections

Viruses, bacteria, and fungi cause sinus infections, and symptoms include nasal congestion, postnasal drip, and pain and pressure around the eyes and nose. To avoid getting a sinus infection:

  • Wash your hands properly and frequently to minimize spreading germs
  • Stay away from sick people and if you feel the early signs of a sinus infection, see a doctor for antibiotics

As always, work with your physician to learn the best way to stay healthy in the winter.