By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services
Spring is here! What health concerns should you be looking out for during spring? Some of the most common ailments are:
Spring is a beautiful time of budding trees, bushes and flowers. However, the pollen needed for this to happen is exactly what causes seasonal allergies to flare up.
Everything from a rash to a sneeze series can indicate that you have an allergy. Don't confuse it with a cold because while that may go away, your allergic reaction will stay until you are in contact with the allergens.
If you have a history of seasonal allergies, be proactive and start taking your allergy medicine before symptoms start.
Asthma triggers are all around the outdoors in the spring. It can include pollen, air temperature changes, fertilizers and insect repellants. Indoor triggers — such as dust, mold, and cleaning chemicals — also can be problematic. If you are an asthmatic, be sure to routinely check your peak flow and have your rescue inhalers and medication with you and ready to use in the event of an asthma flare-up.
Pink eye also seems to thrive in the spring but often can be confused with allergy symptoms. Pink eye can be caused by bacteria, a virus or even an allergy. The bacterial and viral forms are both highly contagious. It is most common among children and is easily spread.
Preventive measures include regular and frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the eyes. While treatment for viral conjunctivitis is for symptoms only, bacterial conjunctivitis will require antibiotics. Treatments for allergic conjunctivitis may include oral and/or ocular antihistamines (eye drops).
The fluctuations in barometric pressures, temperatures and wind common during seasonal changes can irritate the nasal passages and airways and compromise the immune system's ability to fight off other invaders and increasing our vulnerability to infection.
Spring is a peak time for the common cold. Rhinoviruses, which cause roughly 50% of all common colds, are spread easily. Prevention strategies are key. They include washing hands regularly and not touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
Unfortunately, the flu does not stop with the warmer temperatures of spring. In fact, flu viruses do well in humidity. Be vigilant and continue washing your hands and engaging in disease-control measures, especially while traveling.
Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
The virus that causes gastroenteritis is very contagious, and although the symptoms (which include stomach pain, cramping, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting) usually last for only 1-2 days, those infected are usually contagious for three days after symptoms. Symptoms may also include a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Treatment is symptomatic.
Wash your hands often, disinfect bedding and household items, and stay home from work or school as necessary.
The coming of spring means rising temperatures. If you are one of those people who are hot and already have switched on your air conditioner, you might consider delaying this a little longer. The difference in temperatures near your AC and outside is inevitably going to lead to headaches, so beware.
Also, keep in mind that in springtime we see an increase in travel, with many conferences, vacations and spring break. With more travel comes more exposure to a broader range of bacteria and viruses.
As we spring ahead, remember the prevention tips. Wash your hands frequently, take your medication as prescribed and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home when you are sick.
Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables. Stay hydrated. It is suggested to drink at least half your body weight in ounces daily. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, shoot for 75 ounces of water daily.
It is especially important to wash your hands:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After changing a diaper
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets