7 Common Winter Illnesses to Watch Out For

Winter can be a tough time for both kids and adults to stay healthy. Learning how to recognize common winter illnesses can make it easier to care for your child when they are sick. Knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for can also help you determine whether or not a visit to the pediatrician is needed. Based on symptoms alone, determining which illness your child has can be difficult. The majority have a lot in common, so being able to tell the difference is important. 

1. Colds

A cold is the most common winter illness that keeps children home from school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more. that typically lasts 7 to 10 days and can occur at any time of year.

  • Symptoms: Stuffy/runny nose, cough, sore throat, sneezing, and mild fever.

2. RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) 

RSV is an infection in the lungs and airways that usually last 1 to 2 weeks. RSV can be serious in infants.

  • Symptoms: Cold-like symptoms with a wheezing/whistle-like breathing that can cause rapid breathing that might require hospitalization. 

3. Influenza (Flu)

Flu vaccinations are available in the fall and can help prevent this viral infection that lasts from 3 to 7 days. If caught within the first 48 hours, Tamiflu can reduce the duration of the flu.

  • Symptoms: Muscle aches, fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, runny nose, and sore throat.

4. Croup

Croup is a viral infection that can last for 1 week. 

  • Symptoms: Barking cough and hoarseness with fever and runny nose. 

5. Pneumonia

A lung infection caused by a virus or bacteria that can last for 2 to 3 weeks. Bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. 

  • Symptoms: A cough with yellow or green mucus, chest pain, chills, high fever, and rapid breathing. Symptoms can come on rapidly. 

6. Strep Throat

A contagious bacterial infection that can last for 1 to 2 days. Strep can be easily and quickly treated with antibiotics.

  • Symptoms: Sore throat, trouble swallowing, fever and stomachache. A cough and runny nose do not accompany strep throat. However, a sandpaper-like rash can develop, resulting in a diagnosis of scarlet fever.

7. Stomach Flu

A viral infection in the intestines that can last for 1 to 3 days.

  • Symptoms: Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, mild fever, fatigue, and watery diarrhea.

Tips for Dealing with Winter Illnesses

Be sure to keep nasal suctions, saline drops, humidifiers, pain relievers, and vapor rubs handy.  Sanitize doorknobs, toys and commonly used surface areas to prevent germs from spreading.

  • Fever: Administer acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) based on the dosage provided by your pediatrician.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Try small doses of electrolytes like Pedialyte to keep your child hydrated. Pay attention to how many times your child urinates to determine if they are dehydrated.
  • Stuffy nose and cough: Vaporizers can help your child sleep better at night by loosening up the mucus in their lungs and nose. Vapor rubs and saline drops can also alleviate symptoms.
  • Sore throat: A teaspoon of honey can help children over 12 months of age. For older children, gargling warm salty water is a quick and easy remedy.

Tips: Preventing Winter Illnesses

Reducing the risk of common winter illnesses always begins and ends with washing hands frequently. When you’re on the go, sanitizing gels, tissues and wipes are great to keep in your car or diaper bag. Also, teach children to cough or sneeze in a tissue or the crook of their elbow early on to establish healthy habits. Don’t forget to sanitize toys weekly with soapy water or sanitizing spray. This is a good way to keep you and your family healthy all winter long.

When to Book an Appointment

Be sure to watch your child’s activity levels and appetite. If they are lethargic, have a high fever, are barely eating and/or dehydrated, it’s time to see your pediatrician. Call Carithers Pediatric Group at (904) 387-6200 in Riverside or at (904) 997-0023 in Southside to make an appointment for a sick visit.

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