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November 13, 2018

The most contagious common illnesses

Illness Adult Health

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Tissues and Tea Photo Kelly Sikkema/

As temperatures drop and the days become shorter, most of us start spending more time inside with family and friends. While the fall and winter seasons can be full of cozy indoor fun, germs threaten to crash the party. To make matters worse, viruses that cause illnesses like the common cold also spread more easily in colder, drier air.

Understanding how the most contagious common illnesses are contracted can help you protect your immune system and keep your family healthy all year long.

1. The common cold

As the name implies, the common cold is a widespread illness that affects everyone, from toddlers to the elderly, roughly two to three times a year. While people tend to come down with a cold during the winter and spring months, it is possible to catch a cold-causing virus at any time of year. To prevent the sore throat, runny nose, congestion, and related aches and pains associated with a cold, wash your hands often with soap and water and avoid touching your face — you never know what germs might lurk on a seemingly harmless elevator button or door handle.

2. Influenza

Much like the common cold, influenza can make life miserable for a week or two, but with time, the flu will go away on its own. In addition to symptoms like nasal congestion and a persistent cough, the flu often brings on a fever, chills, and muscle pain. When these telltale signs arise, it’s important to stay home and limit your contact with others to avoid spreading the virus. Taking preventive action by getting an annual flu shot greatly reduces your chances of contracting the illness.

3. Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is a highly contagious affliction that causes temporary redness, irritation, tearing, and discharge in one or both eyes. Although pink eye can make for an uncomfortable few days, it generally doesn’t pose a threat to your vision and will typically resolve itself without medical care. If it is a bacterial infection, however, antibiotic drops or ointment are needed to clear things up.

4. Strep Throat

Strep throat, or Streptococcus, is an infection that can cause great pain, swelling, and irritation in the sufferer’s throat. Children are most likely to catch a case of strep throat, but it can affect people of all ages. If you experience severe throat pain and have difficulty swallowing, seek medical attention right away.

5. Gastroenteritis

If you’ve ever had the stomach flu, you know just how wretched this contagious illness can make you feel. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the most common symptoms, and they often come on quickly with little warning. Children and students living in dormitories are at the highest risk of catching a stomach bug, and people with weakened immune systems are also affected more so than others. Gastroenteritis can be caused by viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, with the viral variety being the most contagious.

While this affliction doesn’t last long, it can wreak havoc on your immune health and overall digestive system. Reduce your chances of catching the stomach flu by limiting your contact with infected individuals, washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, and getting your daily dose of vitamins and fluids.

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