Wintertime is often accompanied by runny noses and sore throats. From playdates and school to holiday gatherings, there are plenty of opportunities for children to catch a virus and spread it to the whole family. Here are some common illnesses you should be on the lookout for this year — and best practices to help you avoid them altogether.
1. The Common Cold
One of the most common wintertime illnesses is a cold. It’s a viral infection that affects your nose and throat. Some common symptoms include congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. Catching a cold a few times a year — especially in the winter — is normal. It should subside on its own within a week to ten days. However, if symptoms don’t subside or get worse, see your primary care provider.
It’s even more common for children to catch colds than it is for adults. The best way to prevent your children from catching a cold is to teach them proper hand washing and to disinfect the surfaces they touch often.
2. Influenza (the Flu)
The flu is another viral infection that affects the nose and throat. Flu season usually begins in October and ends in May, making winter the prime time to catch the flu. Symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but the onset of symptoms is usually much more abrupt, and fevers are more common.
Unlike a cold, the flu can be prevented with a flu shot. It’s important for everyone in your family who is six months and older to get a flu shot every year since the flu changes every season.
3. Streptococcal Pharyngitis (Strep Throat)
Step throat is a disease that causes a sore throat with white patches. It’s typically accompanied by other symptoms like swollen neck glands, pain when swallowing, and headaches. Unlike other common illnesses, strep throat can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by your primary care provider.
While anyone can get strep throat, it’s most common in children. This means your child can catch it and easy spread it throughout the rest of your family, regardless of the ages of other family members. Strep throat is spread through bodily fluids like nasal mucus and saliva, so it’s important to disinfect surfaces and avoid sharing food and drinks.
4. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
RSV is a virus that affects the lungs and respiratory tract, most commonly in infants and young children. Symptoms are very similar to those of a cold and usually subside within a week or two. Premature infants and infants with cardiac issues are at higher risk for severe illness caused by RSV. If your baby is under a year old and displaying symptoms like severe coughing and a fever, see your primary care provider.
Along with washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces, you can help protect your baby from RSV by making sure they’re up to date on their recommended vaccinations and regularly visiting their pediatrician.
5. Coronavirus (COVID-19)
While you should be aware of COVID-19 year-round, cases tend to rise in the colder months. Make sure everyone in your family is vaccinated and boosted if applicable. Symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to that of a cold and the flu. As with a cold and the flu, COVID-19 is an airborne illness, which means you should wear a mask if you have symptoms to avoid spreading it to others.
With all these illnesses, prevention is key. Remember, antibiotics do not treat viral infections, so you can’t use them to treat the flu, colds, RSV, or COVID-19. Now is the time to teach your children how to wash their hands often and wear a mask if they feel sick to prevent the spread of illnesses during wintertime.