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Germs and winter go hand in hand

One of the best ways to lessen the odds of getting sick is to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. (WCHS/WVAH)

Can weather changes make you sick? It seems that way.

The winter months and illness seem to go hand in hand, but is this a clear case of cause and effect?

Probably so, according to Dr. Elizabeth Brown in South Charleston.

"The winter time is when the air is drier," Brown said. "Our nasal passages dry out more. That's when the little bacteria and viruses can creep into our mucus membranes and start to set up an infection. Coupled with the fact that we are indoors more, we're participating in activities with other people in close corridors. The barometric pressure changes can mess with our sinuses, so just a perfect setup for infection."

This could especially be true with the winter we've had so far. Wild temperature and weather changes can make it even harder on our bodies.

The good news is, there are some simple ways to lessen the risk of catching a germ.

"Trying to get lots of sleep, hand sanitizing and washing your hands (are good ways)," Brown said. "Cleaning your surfaces with Clorox wipes is wonderful. I use my humidifier at night to keep the air moist. That's a great way to protect your passages and also saline nasal spray."

Influenza, which most know as "the flu," has been especially active and dangerous this year, but Brown said there are several other germs going around too.

"We've got adenovirus, picornavirus has been one," she said. "Those are respiratory viruses as well. G. I. bugs like norovirus, that one has been rearing it's head a little bit, so symptoms with that are diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Strep is always around. I see that in a lot of teachers and people with young kids."

Brown said normally you might give it a day, and see how you feel before visiting a doctor but with as bad as the flu has been this year, it might be better to just head in.

"I think right now with flu season, you can't see a doctor too early," she said.

Fever, headache, body ache, chills and a dry cough are classic symptoms of the flu.

After seeing the doctor, Brown said it's important to go home, stay there and rest. Your body will not only appreciate this, but your friends and co-workers should too.

"I can't emphasize enough how important it is to stay home until you are without a fever for 24 hours, so you don't spread it to your colleagues," Brown said. "Sometimes, I think rest is the best medicine."


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