Top 4 Winter ENT Problems


Winter is officially here, and with it comes lots of interesting challenges for staying healthy. It seems that almost everyone deals with a cough, sore throat, or other symptoms during the winter months. Whether you spend your time outdoors enjoying the cold weather or indoors wishing it would go away, there are a number of ear, nose, and throat issues to be mindful of this time of year. While there is certainly some crossover in issues dealt with in the fall and winter, this information is worth repeating if it means staying healthy. So, before you hit the slopes or curl up on the couch for a long winter’s nap, here are the top 4 ENT problems to be aware of in the coldest months.

Strep Throat
A bacterial infection of the throat and surrounding structures caused by streptococci bacteria. Because its symptoms (sore throat, headache, fever, stomach ache, etc.) mirror that of other common illnesses, a strep test in your doctor’s office is required to determine that the issue is in fact strep and not another viral or bacterial infection. Strep throat is easily treated with antibiotics and patients should stay home until fever is gone for 24 hours.

Influenza, or the flu, seems to be the most dreaded winter-time illness. This viral infection attacks your respiratory system and its unpleasant symptoms (high fever, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and pains, etc.) can leave you out of commission for 5-7 days. Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for influenza, the virus simply has to run its course, but there are antiviral medications that can shorten the duration of the illness by 1-2 days if administered promptly. The flu is highly contagious and is best avoided by getting vaccinated annually and taking practical steps to avoid infection.

Another bacterial infection that presents itself in a variety of ways, like a cold that just keeps getting worse or starts to get better and then takes a sudden turn. A high fever and worsening cough are signs that your cold may have turned into pneumonia and you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Most cases can be treated with antibiotics, but more severe cases may require hospitalization.

Common Cold
The common cold is a virus that causes runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, headache, and sometimes fever. There are several types of viruses that cause the common cold and most symptoms resolve in 7-10 days. Among children, this illness is incredibly common, as most children will get 10 or more colds in a year. Because this is a viral illness, treatment of symptoms is the best course of action.

While there is no way to fully guarantee avoiding some of these issues, many of these illnesses can be avoided by common-sense actions like frequent hand washing, not eating or drinking after others, and avoiding individuals who are sick or symptomatic. If you or your child is exhibiting symptoms of these or other illnesses, contact your doctor immediately for the best course of action.