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Play offense against common illnesses this fall

Play offense against common illnesses this fall

Fall brings several things to look forward to in NOLA, from cooler temperatures to pumpkin spice to football. It also brings seasonal common illnesses. That may not be something to get excited about, but it is an opportunity to up your wellness game with tips from LCMC Health.

The usual suspects

Fall is flu and cold season, but these aren’t the only seasonal illnesses out there. Many other infectious diseases also become more active in the fall and early winter.

Viruses often spread through:

  • Close contact with people infected with a virus
  • Droplets in the air containing a virus
  • Touching a surface with a virus then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose


Influenza, or the flu, is caused by a virus that affects the upper and lower respiratory tract. The lower respiratory tract includes your lungs and windpipe, and the upper part includes your mouth, nose and throat.

Flu symptoms often come on suddenly and include:

  • Body and muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Extreme tiredness, or fatigue
  • Fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

Most people have mild to moderate cases of the flu that last five to seven days. Still, severe cases can be deadly or cause serious complications, such as pneumonia.

The common cold

Colds are mild upper respiratory tract infections. Most adults get two to four colds a year, while young children frequently get six to eight.

A cold may be caused by any of more than 200 different viruses, with the most common being the rhinovirus. No matter which virus is to blame, common cold symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat

The flu and colds have similar symptoms. However, cold symptoms tend to be milder, are generally not life-threatening, and rarely cause complications. In most cases, a cold lasts one to two weeks.

Respiratory syncytial virus

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes cold-like symptoms and affects the lower and upper respiratory tract. Other possible symptoms of RSV include a decreased appetite, fever or wheezing. Typically, RSV symptoms come on slowly and worsen over a few days.

RSV is usually mild but can cause serious illness or complications, especially in:

  • Infants
  • People with chronic health conditions or a weakened immune system
  • Older adults


Not all fall illnesses cause upper respiratory or breathing issues. Norovirus affects the gastrointestinal tract and may cause:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

Your offensive plan against common illnesses

Don’t wait for an illness to take hold before you make your move. Be proactive and protect yourself from seasonal illnesses this fall by:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas, such as countertops and doorknobs
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Getting all vaccines recommended by your healthcare provider
  • Keeping your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose
  • Practicing proper hand washing or using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available
  • Staying away from people who are sick
  • Wearing a mask in crowded areas

Get your defense in top shape

Your immune system is your internal defense against common illnesses and other harmful elements. Healthy habits give your immune system a boost and help prevent illness. To get your defensive team ready:

  • Avoid or quit smoking.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Manage stress.

Rest and recover from common illnesses

Even if you have a well-planned offensive game and a strong immune system, viruses can sometimes sneak through your defenses. If you get a virus this fall:

  • Ask your primary care provider if an antiviral drug may help shorten your illness.
  • Avoid spending time with others while sick.
  • Prioritize rest.
  • Stay home from work or school if you have symptoms and for 24 hours after you no longer have a fever without using fever-reducing medication.
  • Stay hydrated.

What more tips to protect against common illnesses? Make an appointment with an LCMC Health primary care provider.