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Family walking together through pumpkin patch.

 

As the summer days get cooler and you start prepping to get your kids ready for back to school, you may also be getting excited about all the autumn season brings. While we look forward to warm sweaters, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches, the fall is also a time that we see many common illnesses peak.

 

Common autumn illnesses include:

 

While none of the autumn illnesses above are pleasant to experience, there are many ways you can prevent and treat them. Below, we cover the signs and symptoms of each as well as how your local pharmacy can help you or your loved ones get some relief if fall illnesses strike you.

 

 

Fall Allergies

While the spring season is commonly known as primary allergy season, many people are also affected by allergies in the fall. For example, dust and mould allergies often peak when space heaters and furnaces start to come on at your home, school, or work. Ragweed allergens are also abundant, causing discomfort to all affected by the pollen.

 

Symptoms of fall allergies include:

  • Runny nose or nasal congestion

  • Watery and itchy eyes

  • Sore or itchy throat

  • Coughing or sneezing

  • Headache

  • Fatigue 

 

Ways to reduce fall allergies:

  • Keep an eye on the pollen forecast and air quality forecast in your city or town

  • Close your windows during peak ragweed season

  • Clean or replace filters in your HVAC before using the heat

  • Shower after spending time outside (pollen is light and can travel far)

  • Keep surfaces in your home and car clean

 

How to treat allergies at home:

Talk to a pharmacist near you about how to treat allergies at home with budget-friendly nasal sprays, antihistamines, decongestants, and eye drops. Likely, your pharmacist can suggest a low-cost, over-the-counter medication to provide you with allergy relief.

 

However, if your condition does not improve after taking medication or if it worsens over time, make an appointment with your doctor.

 

 

Common Cold

As the kids get back to school with their friends and play dates and family gatherings start to move indoors, catching a common cold in the fall is usually – well, common.

 

While having a cold (or a house full of sick people) is never ideal, symptoms are typically mild and will resolve within a week.

 

Symptoms of the common cold include:

  • Cough

  • Sneezing

  • Sore throat

  • Nasal congestion

  • Mild headache or body ache

 

Prevention of the common cold:

Of course, you can’t always avoid getting a cold – especially when you live with little ones who want to touch your face with dirty, sticky hands after touching everything else. Or when someone at work or school decided to “push through their cold” instead of staying home.

 

However, you can:

  • Keep your distance from people who have symptoms of a cold

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water

  • Avoiding touching your face and mouth

  • Maintain your immune system (eat well, sleep, reduce stress)

  • Increase rest and fluids as soon as your feel the first signs of a bug

 

At-home treatment for the common cold:

As the common cold is a viral infection, rest and fluids are the best medicine. However, over-the-counter pain medications may also help you or your loved ones manage the unpleasant symptoms, particularly your sore throats, headaches, and mild body aches.

 

Father hugging sick child.

 

Talk to your local pharmacist about what they recommend for you or your children.

 

 

Flu

Flu (influenza) can circulate at any time of the year, but the viruses thrive in the colder, drier weather we experience in the fall and winter seasons. Therefore, influenza activity begins to increase in October and peaks between December and February.

 

If you have ever had the flu, you know it tends to be more significant than a common cold. Flu symptoms can range from mild to severe and often come on quickly.

 

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Vomiting or diarrhea (more common for children than adults)

 

How long are you contagious with the flu?

Generally, adults with the flu are most contagious for the first three to four days after their symptoms begin. However, influenza can be spread beginning one day before symptoms show, and an adult can remain contagious for up to five to seven days. Children and people with compromised immune systems may remain contagious longer than seven days.

 

How to prevent the flu?

The best way to protect yourself and your family from influenza is by getting your flu shot each year. The flu vaccine can lessen flu-related illnesses and reduce the risk of serious flu complications. Talk to your local pharmacy about when and how to get your flu shot.

 

In addition to vaccination, keep your distance from others showing signs of influenza. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face or mouth. Also, be sure to keep high-touch surfaces and electronic devices clean.

 

How to prevent the spread of the flu?

If you do catch the flu, be sure to cover your sneezes and coughs and avoid contact with others – especially people who are elderly, pregnant, or immunocompromised. Extra care should also be taken to reduce contact with children under five. In addition, keep your hands clean, and wear a mask if you must leave your home while you are sick.

 

How to treat the flu at home?

While influenza can lead to other illnesses, hospitalization, and even death, flu often resolves itself without treatment. So, the best thing you can do is prioritize self-care. Drink water, eat nutritious food, rest, and practice good hygiene.

 

Your local pharmacist can suggest antihistamines and cough suppressants that may help ease flu symptoms. However, if your symptoms become severe, talk to your doctor or seek emergency care.

 

 

Ear Infections

Acute ear infections often occur in the fall and are most common in children under five. Ear infections are caused by an inflammation or virus within the inner ear or the nerves of the inner ear. Infections of the ear can be viral or bacterial, but bacterial ear infections are most common. They can sometimes result from allergies, the common cold, or influenza.

 

Symptoms of ear infections:

  • Ear pain
  • Loss of hearing in the affected ear
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Fullness in the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

 

Treatment for ear infections:

If you think you have an ear infection or your child is complaining of the symptoms above, it is highly recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor or drop into a walk-in clinic. Ear infections can become very painful, and it is best to seek treatment if symptoms do not resolve on their own after a few days.

 

Your doctor may prescribe steroids, antivirals, antibiotics, antiemetics, and/or antihistamines to you or your child, depending on your unique situation. In many cases, rest, fluids, a well-balanced diet, and patience is all you need. Regardless, your local pharmacist can provide instructions on taking your prescription or help you find an over-the-counter solution to ease symptoms.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Family running outside.

 

Autumn is a time many of us look forward to each year, but the fall season brings the resurgence of many common illnesses like allergies, colds, flu, and ear infections. While these fall illnesses are unpleasant – especially when they spread through your entire household at once – they are often treatable at home under the advisement of your local pharmacist.

 

Ragweed, mould, and dust allergies peak in the fall when pollen and other allergens are circulating. Keeping an eye on your pollen and air quality reports and adjusting your daily activities accordingly can help reduce the impact of cooler weather allergies. Also, keep your space heaters and HVAC system clean, as they can be culprits of dust and mould spores at home, work, or school. Finally, chat with your pharmacist about over-the-counter solutions to ease your fall allergy symptoms.

 

Catching a common cold can feel inevitable, especially if you have children in school or work in a high-density job where you can't avoid contact with others. Luckily, colds are often mild and resolve on their own. That does not make them any less inconvenient or unpleasant, though. So, take care of yourself with rest and fluids, and ask your pharmacist for over-the-counter medications to ease coughs, sore throats, and headaches.

 

The flu can come on quickly and have mild to severe symptoms. Take precautions during flu season by getting your flu shot and keeping your hands and devices clean. Stay away from other people if you are sick, and talk to your doctor if your symptoms escalate significantly.

 

Ear infections are a common illness that young children may experience in the fall season. They may be bacterial or viral and can result from allergies, common cold, and flu. Talk to your pharmacist about how to relieve painful earaches, and see your doctor if symptoms do not go away after a few days.

 

 

Feeling Sick This Fall? Find Relief at Cook’s Pharmacy!

 

As always, our team at Cook’s Pharmacy is here to help you and your family feel better. Stop by our Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, New Hamburg, and Wellesley pharmacies, or reach out to us!

 

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