I know that my Mom has many “mom-isms” (sayings that are specific to her), and growing up I believed these to be common knowledge or fact, which now I know that some were completely special to our family. But, to her credit, her declaration of “pneumonia weather” was based upon when I would get it (as I did as a child due to severe asthma) based upon different weather patterns and, by George, she was onto something! The number of respiratory tract infections (RTIs) going around right now are staggering. and for most of us in the US, it is “pneumonia weather”. To be clear, while I am referring to it as “pneumonia weather”, as that is what my mom calls it, I am just referring to RTIs, which are the leading cause of people missing school and/or work annually.
It always chimes in the back of my head when I see people, who are real positive thinkers, wearing short-sleeved shirts in this cold weather in the end of March and beginning of April because they feel like it should be warm, so they are pushing the limits, and really freezing in the high hopes that it will get warm, which it does in the middle of the day (with sun) then right back to cold. Now, it has nothing to do, per say, with being under dressed for the weather, it is more just a time when not only are humans confused but so is nature. The allergens from the trees and flowers starting to bloom, mold spores from the old leaves from fall that are now seeing the light of day after our winter thaw, are all out in the air floating about, and people are getting outside more (which is great) to get more active as it is more tolerable to exercise outside now. But, that cooler air can still cause airways to become reactive, and add in the allergens (which no one ever thinks about this early in the season), add people starting to get in shape and exercise outside again, and you have the perfect setting for people to get RTIs, especially for those who are high risk: people with asthma (or other chronic lung diseases), seasonal allergy sufferers, smokers, the very young and old, those with weakened immune systems, and people with obesity.
*This “pneumonia weather” can also happen when the seasons change from summer to fall with leaves on the ground, mold spores in the air, and newer chilly weather outside.
What is a RTI?
A respiratory tract infection is any sort of virus that causes a response, in any part of the respiratory tract: nose, ears, throat, lungs. So it can be an ear infection, a sore throat, a runny nose/sinus infection, bronchitis. All of these are considered respiratory tract infections, as all (minus your ears) are a part of the system that our bodies use to breathe and/or to help filter out the air that we breathe before it gets into the lungs. So, the more allergens in the air, the more we are breathing in, the higher the risk of a reaction, especially if you are someone prone to respiratory tract infections. RTIs if severe enough, along with a chronic disease and a lowered immune system, could lead to pneumonia.
How do I prevent it?
Follow the normal precautions that you take to prevent illness, such as eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water, washing your hands frequently, and staying clear of people who are sick (says the nurse; but you all know what I mean, keep your distance if someone is actively showing signs of illness and coughing/sneezing everywhere, as best you can). But on top of these measures, if you are someone who tends to suffer from seasonal allergies, start taking allergy medication early in the season, i.e. now, because even though the allergen levels aren’t through the roof, they are much more than we have been experiencing, so be aware of that and pay attention to your body. If you are just getting back into shape, ease into it and don’t over-train or over exert your body because on top of your body trying to recover from an increase in exercise and responding to that, if you are also exercising outdoors, you are adding all sorts of allergens too, which can make you more at risk to react to the allergens and get sick. There are some small claims that probiotics can help to prevent RTIs, so it is worth a try, if you are at risk!
If you do get an RTI, rest, drink fluids, eat a clean diet, and stay home from school/work so you don’t infect others. While you feel miserable for a few days, only about 15% of them are actually bacterial infections, so they are usually viral and will clear up on their own. If you have a high fever that won’t break, are not getting better, or have difficulty breathing, you should not hesitate to call your Healthcare Provider to get checked out….but don’t push for antibiotics, they will prescribe them if they are necessary
Stay healthy and enjoy spring!
Yours in Good Health