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Be ready to combat common winter illnesses

winter illness

In late fall and into the winter, primary care physicians tend to see a trend — coughing, stuffy or runny noses and sore throats.

With Kansas being listed as having "high" level of patients receiving care for influenza-like illnesses according to the Centers for Disease Control, it's more important than ever for individuals to practice good hand hygiene - wash often - and try to reduce the spread of germs by using antibacterial wipes on carts at the grocery store, coughing into your elbow - not your hands, and staying home from work or school when you're sick.

“While some ailments like strep throat are treated with an antibiotic, most conditions that we see in adults and children are viral,” said Lan Ly, MD, family medicine physician at Via Christi’s Primary Care Clinic in Manhattan.

Allergies can sometimes be mistaken for a cold, she explains. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference and a lot of times they overlap.  Allergies can be treated with antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. Both can have nasal congestion, in which a neti pot would be very helpful to help clear sinuses and in babies, using a nasal aspirator can be helpful in clearing drainage.

“There isn’t much to be done about a virus other than treating the symptoms with supportive care and allowing it to take its course, which is usually seven to ten days,” Dr. Ly says. “You can try over-the-counter cold and flu medications or acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort.”

However, if you start feeling better and then begin feeling worse again, make an appointment with your primary care physician, Dr. Ly says.

“A virus can turn into a bacterial infection, and those need to be treated with an antibiotic,” she adds.

Regardless of the ailment, staying hydrated is the most important thing for people to remember when they’re sick, Dr. Ly says.

“Even if you have a poor appetite, keep the fluids coming — water and Pedialyte work well,” she says. “Also, a cough can stick around for up to six weeks after recovering from an illness. A teaspoon of honey can help with a cough and gargling with warm salt water can help decrease inflammation associated with coughing and sore throats.”

About Michelle Kennedy

Michelle Kennedy is the Senior Marketing Specialist for Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg and Wamego Health Center. She is a proud wife and mom and loves cooking, camping and spending time outdoors, her dogs and reading.