Maria H. Drzaszcz
Spring illnesses to watch out for
Spring typically means warmer weather, longer days and much anticipated return to outside activities. Most of us think of spring allergies as causing our dreaded symptoms. While spring allergies can make us feel pretty miserable, there are also many other common spring illnesses to watch out for. Here are some of them and what to look for and when to seek out care from your doctor.
Respiratory allergy symptoms are due to trees and plants blooming and pollen getting carried by the wind, ending up in our noses, eyes and lungs. Symptoms of respiratory allergies are: swelling and mucus production in the nose, causing stuffiness or nasal discharge; redness, tearing and itchiness in the eyes; and swelling, wheezing and mucus production in the lungs, causing a cough. Pollen allergies are not considered life threatening, but can be a nuisance until about early summer time.
Other non-allergy causes of spring time illness include:
Rhinoviruses aka common cold. In addition to winter time, spring is a peak time for rhinoviruses to circulate. Remember to wash your hands and avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes. Spring colds can be hard to differentiate from spring allergies. Some clues that your symptoms may in fact be caused by a cold virus and not allergies are: sore throat, possibly low grade fever, and aches and pains and tiredness. Remember cold symptoms usually abate in five to seven days, whereas allergy symptoms persist throughout the season.
Flu virus. It seems that just within my friend circle, lab confirmed influenza activity was high in this area around early and mid -April. Unfortunately, flu activity can be seen through April and May. Flu symptoms include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Children and some adults may also experience some gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. If you think you are experiencing influenza, it’s best to see your doctor or an urgent care facility and get tested for flu. Some antiviral medication can be started early into a flu illness and can shorten symptoms. Remember to schedule a flu shot this coming fall, with October through November being an ideal time to afford protection through the following spring.
Lyme disease. I loathe ticks and this time of year beware! Warmer, rainy spring weather is the preference of deer ticks, which transmit Lyme disease. Avoidance strategies work best, so avoid walking in tall vegetation and remember to use tick repellent whenever spending time outdoors. Remember to check your body and scalp thoroughly for ticks and teach young children to do this as well. If you find a tick on your body, remove it promptly using an upward, steady pressure with fine tipped tweezers. If you should develop any symptoms such as a bulls-eye rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor right away.
Viral gastroenteritis aka stomach flu. Yes, this annoying bug circulates during warmer weather too. It is very contagious, and although the symptoms, which include stomach pain, cramping, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, usually last for only one to two days, those affected are usually contagious for three days after symptoms abate. Proper handwashing and sanitization are imperative to preventing stomach viruses.
Don’t forget that those annoying spring time allergies can also make asthma worse. Allergies can also imitate a pink eye infection, by causing redness and watering of the eyes. Insect stings are also a concern as we venture out in the warmer weather. Most people stung or bitten by insects suffer pain, redness, itching and minor swelling in the area around the bite or sting. This is a normal reaction. Many people will get better within hours or days. Some people, however, can have a serious allergic reaction to stinging or biting insects. A life threatening allergic reaction or anaphylaxis produces signs and symptoms that require immediate emergency medical attention. If you or someone you live with has severe reactions to insect stings, it’s best to get an emergency plan in place with your doctor.
Happy, healthy spring Hammonton!
Maria H. Drzaszcz, a Hammonton resident, is a registered nurse with 14 years critical care experience and is the proud mom of three young children.