You probably expect colds and the flu to be making the rounds right now. But other ailments also crop up more often during winter. Here’s what to know about three such infections:
This condition develops when an infection, usually a virus from a cold, spreads to the cavities behind your eyebrows and cheekbones, and between your eyes. You might have a stuffy nose with discharge, and facial pain and pressure.
How to avoid it: Guard against sinusitis with frequent hand-washing, a proper diet, regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Reduce your exposure to cigarette smoke, too.
If you think you have it: Rest and drink warm fluids to help loosen mucus. You may want to try an over-the-counter nasal saline rinse. OTC decongestant nasal sprays such as oxymetazoline (Afrin and generic) may unblock your nose, but if you use one for more than three days, stuffiness may rebound. Make an appointment with your doctor if symptoms worsen or last longer than 10 days, or if you have severe pain around the nose and eyes or a fever above 102 degrees.
Keep in mind: You usually won’t need antibiotics; most cases of sinusitis are viral, and antibiotics work only against bacteria. Using antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to bacteria that are resistant to those drugs.
Commonly called stomach flu, it causes diarrhea, stomach pain, vomiting and sometimes a fever for 48 to 72 hours.
How to avoid it: About 50 percent of people who come in contact with someone with norovirus also get sick, so be careful around anyone who is vomiting or has diarrhea. Wash your hands often, especially after using the toilet and before eating or cooking. Or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
If you think you have it: Rest and sip plenty of water and other caffeine-free, nonalcoholic fluids. If your urine is dark yellow, you may need to increase fluids. Seek a doctor’s help if you’re very thirsty, confused, dizzy or unsteady, or if you feel faint or you’re urinating less than usual. Those may be signs of severe dehydration.
Keep in mind: Norovirus is highly contagious. Stay home while you’re ill, and after you’ve recovered, disinfect surfaces you touched with a bleach-based household cleaner.
Bronchitis occurs when the tubes that carry air to your lungs become infected and produce excess mucus. Its cough can linger for three weeks, and it usually generates mucus at first, then becomes dry.
How to avoid it: Bronchitis, which is usually viral, is often caused by colds and the flu, so practice healthy lifestyle habits and get an annual flu shot. And avoid people who are coughing or sneezing.
If you think you have it: To soothe an irritated throat and loosen mucus, breathe steam from a shower or kettle. (Coughing helps you get rid of secretions that can cause lung infections such as pneumonia.) See a doctor if symptoms ease but then worsen again.
Keep in mind: Although often prescribed, antibiotics have little or no place in the treatment of bronchitis, says Jeffrey Linder, an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
For further guidance, go to ConsumerReports.org/Health, where more detailed information, including CR’s ratings of prescription drugs, treatments, hospitals and healthy-living products, is available to subscribers.