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            The Aga Khan University Hospital Pakistan

Top 5 Winter Illnesses to Watch Out For

<p>​As the temperature drops and the sweaters come out, it becomes important to prevent and manage the onset of winter illnesses. The winter season brings its own set of health challenges, from the common cold to more serious illnesses. In fact, cold weather can increase your chances of getting sick because viruses travel more easily in cold, dry air when an ill person coughs or sneezes.
</p><p>Here are some common winter illnesses you should be mindful of:</p><p><strong>1. Influenza (Flu)</strong></p><p>The flu is a highly contagious infection that spreads rapidly during the winter season. Its symptoms include high fever, muscle pains, weakness, and respiratory problems. The flu can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable populations like the elderly, young children, and those with weakened immune systems. In the elderly, influenza is also more likely to lead to pneumonia , bronchitis, and other infections. Vaccination is the most effective preventive measure against the flu.</p><p><strong>2. Common Cold (Rhinovirus)</strong></p><p>Though it might seem trivial, the common cold is a prevalent winter illness. It is a viral disease, caused by any of the hundreds of cold viruses that are prevalent in the winters. A runny nose, sneezing, and throat irritation are the hallmark signs that you are suffering from a cold. The best way to get relief from a cold is by staying hydrated and getting proper rest. Having warm liquids like tea and gargling with warm salt water can help soothe a sore throat. </p><p><strong>3. Pneumonia</strong></p><p>Pneumonia is a common lung infection that can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. It leads to inflammation of the air sacs within our lungs, which may become filled with fluid or pus. Vulnerable groups such as children younger than 2, adults over 65, and people with compromised immune systems are more likely to contract this infection. Warning signs of pneumonia include high fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, and coughing with phlegm. Maintain good hygiene and consult a doctor for vaccination to lower the risk of pneumonia.</p><p><strong>4. Stomach Flu (Norovirus)</strong></p><p>The stomach flu is a highly contagious illness that is known for symptoms such as vomiting, watery diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. Norovirus, responsible for stomach flu, survives better in the winter on high-touch surfaces like countertops and doorknobs and spreads quickly through contact with infected people. Prevention is crucial when it comes to the stomach flu. Wash your hands often, properly wash fruits and vegetables before having them, and disinfect surfaces often. </p><p><strong>5. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)</strong></p><p>Apart from your physical health, the cold season can also affect your mental well-being. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs typically during the winter season every year. Experts believe this disorder may be caused by a reduced amount of sunlight, which disrupts your body&#39;s natural internal clock, leading to low energy and mood changes. SAD symptoms can be alleviated by spending time outside in the sun, regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and maintaining social connections. Make sure to seek professional help from a psychologist or therapist as well. </p><p>Since winter illnesses are often highly contagious, practicing preventive measures can go a long way.</p><p><strong>Ways you can prevent common winter illnesses:</strong></p><ul><li>Cough and sneeze in the bend of your elbow.</li><li>Drink plenty of water.</li><li>Stay covered with layered clothing and a hat, scarf, and gloves.</li><li>Exercise regularly.</li><li>Wash your hands often.</li><li>Get enough sleep to help boost your immune system.</li><li>Keep your home well-ventilated to reduce the risk of respiratory problems.</li><li>If experiencing symptoms, wear a mask in public to protect people around you.</li></ul><p>While winter can be a tough season on the body, being aware of symptoms and seeking medical advice in time can help reduce your chances of falling ill. With proper precautions and hygienic practices, you can ensure a safer passage through the colder months.​
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