You’re going to hear the words “flu” and “flu shot” a lot this fall, winter and even spring.
It’s for good reason. The flu is common, can be dangerous and doctors say the flu shot is the best way to prevent it.
However, this time of year is a popular one for a number of illnesses because the colder weather forces people indoors and closer together, allowing for the easier spread of germs.
News 3 Medical Expert Dr. Ryan Light of TPMG Greenbrier says he sees a lot of different viruses; mostly respiratory illnesses like RSV, adenovirus, parainfluenza as well as illnesses like norovirus. The Centers for Disease Control characterize them as follows:
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): A common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. In fact, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year of age in the United States. It is also a significant cause of respiratory illness in older adults.
- Adenovirus: Common viruses that cause a range of illness. They can cause cold-like symptoms, fever, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye (conjunctivitis). You can get an adenovirus infection at any age. People with weakened immune systems or existing respiratory or cardiac disease are more likely than others to get very sick from an adenovirus infection.
- Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs) commonly cause respiratory illnesses in infants and young children. But anyone can get HPIV illness. Symptoms may include fever, runny nose, and cough. Patients usually recover on their own. However, HPIVs can also cause more severe illness, such as croup or pneumonia.
- Norovirus: A very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone can get infected and sick with norovirus. You can get norovirus from:
- Having direct contact with an infected person
- Consuming contaminated food or water
- Touching contaminated surfaces then putting your unwashed hands in your mouth
Dr. Light says generally these kinds of viruses run their course on their own, but if they linger, don’t be afraid to visit a doctor. That especially goes for children.
“Any time your child is having a difficult time breathing or any time your child has a high fever, get them into the pediatrician. There’s nothing wrong with that. Get them into the doctor to get them checked out,” he said. “If you’re worried or concerned and you don’t know what to do, it’s why we have doctors out there.”
Keep in mind that because most of what goes around in the fall and winter are viruses, Dr. Light says antibiotics won’t be effective and instead he recommends supportive care and treating symptoms.
He also recommends for sick adults to stay home from work as long as they can and to keep kids home from school to avoid spreading illnesses.