Be in the Know About Winter Illnesses
January 2021 Issue - Pink Prescriptions
Be in the Know About Winter Illnesses
January can get you down with more than the blues. It’s the month down South when the cold really kicks in, and brings with it common winter illnesses such as cold, flu and respiratory infections. Ugh! These winter woes can make you feel terrible. That’s why it’s important to know as much as you can about how to avoid and rapidly cure these sneezing, coughing, stuffy, achy, miserable ailments.
by Dr. Rhonda Wallace
How contagious am I? People with the flu (influenza) are most contagious within the first 3 to 4 days after the illness starts and can infect others as soon as a day before they start experiencing symptoms and up to 5 to 7 days after experiencing symptoms. If you have the flu, you should stay home from work or school until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications to avoid spreading the virus.
Symptoms: Symptoms include fever or feeling feverish, and possibly chills, body aches, cough, fatigue, sore throat, runny or congested nose and headache. Symptoms can last for several days, or even weeks.
Treatments: There are antiviral medications that can be given to treat flu. They are especially effective in reducing symptoms if given within the first 48 hours of the illness. Over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol and NSAIDS, can be used to treat fever and body aches. In addition, getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated can help reduce symptoms.
Should I get a Covid test, too? Yes. Flu symptoms are very similar to Covid symptoms. Testing for both influenza A & B and COVID should be performed to help determine your most effective medical treatment.
When should I see a Doctor? Adults 65 years and older, children under 5 years of age, adults with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and chronic kidney disease are at higher risk of developing complications from the flu. These folks should call their physician when they first start experiencing symptoms to inquire about getting tested and treated.
Best Advice: Getting an annual influenza vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu virus.
Dr. Rhonda Wallace is a board-certified family medicine physician at Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care. Prior to completing her medical degree, she worked as a certified physician assistant in emergency and urgent care settings.
by Dr. Joseph McShea
How contagious am I? Typically not contagious.
Symptoms? Acute Rhinosinusitis is an inflammatory condition of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. Symptoms include congestion, runny nose, sinus pressure or pain and a non-productive cough.
Treatments? Treatments initially would include over-the-counter medicines to relieve symptoms of nasal obstruction and runny nose, such as nasal or oral decongestants, nasal saline irrigation, and/or steroid nasal sprays. Nasal decongestants are wonderful for symptom relief but should not be used more than three days, as rebound congestion may occur. Antihistamines and mucolytics like Mucinex have shown no reasonable studies to support their use, and antihistamines, due to their drying effect, could be counterproductive to achieving symptom relief.
When should I see a doctor? Typically, if after 10 to 14 days you are not noting significant symptom improvement, maybe it’s time for a physician evaluation for what might have become a secondary bacterial infection. You should also see a provider if you are experiencing repeated sinus infections.
Should I get a Covid test? You may want to consider Covid testing particularly if there was a known exposure, or you are at risk for exposure due to work or home environment.
Best Advice: As always, to assist your body in recovering quickly, rest, fluids and proper nutrition goes a long way.
Dr. Joseph McShea is a board-certified family medicine physician with over 25 years experience in primary and urgent care. He sees patients at Beaufort Memorial Express Care & Occupational Health in Okatie.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
by Dr. Ravi Srivastava
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is commonly thought of during the fall and winter months as we all observe cloudy weather and spend less time outdoors. SAD is one subtype of mood disorder that has a “seasonal pattern.” In other words, it is an “add on diagnosis” to other mood disorders like major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. Not every person who has depressive episodes in the winter has a seasonal pattern. The episodes of this illness have to regularly start at a particular time of year – in the fall or winter – and should not be related to external stressors. The end of the episode also occurs at the same time of the year for the individual. There are many other factors that are involved in making this diagnosis, and it is important to be in active communication with your primary care provider or therapist for individualized options.
The seasonal pattern of depression was initially noted in the geographic areas close to the poles of the Earth, where winters are long with low sunlight and temperature. SAD is not as common in the Lowcountry, thanks to more sunlight in the winter. There is evidence that geographically moving to a place that has more light reduces the frequency of the winter seasonal pattern of a mood disorder. This may be why snowbirds move to destinations with shorter and warmer winters to avoid the gloomy weather of their previous residence.
However, I know many people in our geographical area of the Lowcountry who seem to have a seasonal pattern of feeling “blue,” but do not have clinical depression. This is not to be confused with seasonal affective disorder. The fall daylight savings time change could trigger negative effects due to less natural light. The regular routine of most individuals is thrown off when it becomes darker earlier due to the time change.
It is unclear why the winter blues occur more severely in some individuals. There seems to be a biologic predisposition, or medical vulnerability, which makes some people more sensitive to a lack of sunlight than others. The treatment can involve having bright lights on in one’s home during the winter. In some severe cases, there is a need for a bright light headlamp with at least 10,000 Lux, in addition to regular antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
Remember, if you believe you are experiencing a mood disorder, always check with your primary care provider or therapist before making major lifestyle changes.
Dr. Ravi Srivastava is a psychiatrist and medical director of The Cove, Hilton Head Hospital’s Senior Behavioral Health Program, where he specifically tailors to the needs of seniors and their loved ones.
I’m trying to avoid the common winter illnesses,
should I incorporate vitamins or certain
foods to stave them off?
by Kerri Dodson, MCHC, CNT
Short answer, yes and yes. Everyone is concerned right now about the common cold and flu. There are several things one can do that are impactful on being healthy. First and foremost, work on resolving comorbidities, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, high A1c, type 2 diabetes, obesity and autoimmunity. A nutrition therapist can assist and guide you on these matters. However, while you are working towards improving your health and immune system, healthy foods and vitamins are great add-ins. To help boost immunity, there are four good main vitamins I recommend. There are more, however, these will significantly improve immunity to get you through cold and flu season.
Vitamin D: This is the most important. Vitamin D is also a hormone essential for health. A scientific review published in 2006 concluded that getting the seasonal flu is most likely due to vitamin D deficiency. Other studies have now confirmed this. As a side note, according to research, 82.2% of COVID-19 patients tested were deficient in vitamin D. Being deficient also increases your risk of testing positive for COVID, increased hospitalizations, increased ICU and increased death from COVID. Vitamin D is best obtained from sunlight exposure, or in the alternative supplementation of D3. Blood testing will establish a baseline and will dictate proper supplementation.
Vitamin C: This vitamin is great for immune function and can help decrease duration and severity of symptoms from the common cold. It is important that when you are under the weather to supplement to saturation for the best outcome, which is different for everyone. Supplementation to saturation is necessary if you are sick, but eating foods daily filled with vitamin C will keep deficiency at bay. Foods include oranges, tomatoes, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, cabbage and green leafy veggies.
Zinc: This is also a game changer. Zinc stops the replication of viruses, which will significantly reduce severity and duration of symptoms. This used in combination with Vitamin C is a must. Studies have shown that proper zinc levels may protect against COVID. If under the weather, zinc supplementation is recommended. However, obtaining proper amounts from foods, such as red meat, poultry, nuts, beans, seeds, shellfish and whole grains is a better option.
Vitamin A: This vitamin is a fat-soluble vitamin. Therefore, I do not recommend supplementation. Fat soluble means that any excess of this vitamin will be stored in fat tissue and can cause issues if there is too much. However, it is easy to obtain from foods such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, kale (cooked), collards, carrots, red pepper and green leafy veggies.
Kerri Dodson is a Certified Nutrition Therapist and Master Certified Health and Wellness Coach for NuBodia, LLC. She specializes in Nutritional Counseling and nutritional protocols to help clients overcome chronic diseases such as high cholesterol, high A1c, Type II Diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Call today: 843-816-3733.