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Winter weather brings colds and flu, as air temperatures fall to levels supporting survival of heat-sensitive viruses in the air and on household surfaces.
Not everything that appears to be an early symptom of a cold, flu, or upper respiratory infection is really what it appears, and colds, flu, and sinusitis can also masquerade as other illnesses. Here are some symptoms of contagious conditions of winter you probably do not expect.
  • Acne. Pimples that have bulging centers filled with yellow or straw-colored fluid really aren't acne. They are most commonly impetigo caused by staph bacteria. Little children transfer the bacteria to each other by touching each other on the face, but adults usually get staph infections on the face about the same time they get staph infections of the sinuses.
  • Facial pain that increases when bending down is a sign of sinus infection.
  • Headache is much more common with influenza than with a cold. Many people can identify the exact time they came down by the flu by noting the time they started having a severe headache.
  • Muscle pain, especially when it starts at the back of the neck, is a sign of influenza rather than a cold.
  • Nasal dryness. The very first symptom of a cold (when you should take zinc or vitamin C) usually is dryness or tingling of the nasal passages, followed by runny nose, sneezing, and fever. If you don't have the sensation of dryness in your nasal passages before you start to sneeze, you may be suffering an allergy rather than a cold. After several days, an allergy will continue to generate thin, clear mucus, but a cold will generate thick yellow or thick green mucus.
  • Postnasal drip, nasal congestion, a feeling of fullness in the ears, and tooth pain are signs of a bacterial infection of the sinuses. Only your doctor will know for sure, but if the doctor confirms that the infection is due to bacteria rather than viruses, antibiotic treatment may help. Antibiotics do not help resolve viral infections.
  • Redness of the nose, cheeks, and eyelids is often a sign of sinusitis.
  • Sore throat is usually a sign of infection with the flu or with an adenovirus or enterovirus. It usually is not caused by a rhinovirus, the most frequent infectious agent causing common cold. If you get a sore throat, you have a condition that is more serious than a common cold.
  • Vomiting is often a sign of a cold in babies. Even before baby's nose stops up, difficulty breathing can interfere with swallowing so that the infant throws up food.
  • Wheezing is an early sign of a cold or flu in people who have asthma. In addition to treating asthma as directed, it is also important to take measures against the infection.
Contrary to commonly held belief, talking, coughing, kissing, and even drooling usually do not transmit colds and flu viruses. Getting caught in someone's sneeze, however, or picking up used kerchiefs or tissues, or contact with droplets from a sneeze on public surface, transmit the virus about 50% of the time.
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