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Staying Safe During The Fall

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The onset of fall means many things - beautifully colored leaves, the beginning of pumpkin spice season, and unfortunately, an increased risk of experiencing many common illnesses and injuries. 

In this article, we'll identify some of the most prevalent to occur during this time of year and explain ways you can mitigate your potential for contracting them. 

Influenza (Flu) 

The beginning of fall means the beginning of flu season, and despite medical professionals' efforts to eradicate it through vaccination, the fact remains that influenza is still a very prevalent illness in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that an annual average of 9 to 41 million cases of the flu were diagnosed in America between 2010 and 2020. 

Every year, it's expected that 5% to 20% of the country's population will contract the illness, with cases being most prevalent in children and youth. 

While influenza has been around for years, it remains a serious virus capable of causing serious complications and outcomes in those who contract it. Over 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu every year, and between 12,000 and 52,000 die from it annually. 

Our most vulnerable are at the highest risk of adverse outcomes; infants under six months old and seniors make up most of hospitalizations and deaths. 

Signs and Symptoms of the Flu 

Even if you don't develop complications, the flu is just outright awful to have. Contraction of the virus comes with a range of potential symptoms, many of which can be severe and last up to seven days. 

Common signs and symptoms of influenza include: 

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills 
  • Sore throat 
  • Cough
  • Fatigue 
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headaches 

Of course this list isn't exhaustive; some people will experience additional and/or separate symptoms from those described here. 

Mitigating the Flu 

While your risk for contracting influenza increases in the fall, you're not defenseless against the virus. There are a number of things people can do to mitigate their potential for exposure and developing serious cases of the illness. The following are a few of the most effective. 

  • Get Your Flu Shot: Flu shots are the first and often most effective defense you can get against influenza. Annual vaccines are essential to helping your system prepare the right antibodies to fight the virus and have been proven to significantly reduce chances of severe illness and death. 
  • Wear a Face Mask: Although you may already be doing this, wearing a face mask can be an extremely effective way of limiting your exposure to and transmission of airborne viruses like influenza. 

Allergies 

Seasonal allergies are a very real problem for many Americans, currently affecting over 50 million people annually. While they're known to flare up during the springtime, seasonal allergies are also very common in autumn. 

Ragweed pollen is one of the most common triggers here; it's estimated that about 75% of those with allergies to spring plants are also adversely affected by ragweed. Ragweed begins to pollinate in late August and continues to do so through September, October and sometimes even later, depending on how warm a local climate is. 

Many other irritants like cedar elm, sagebrush and mugwort, can cause flare ups in those who have allergic rhinitis until first frost. 

Signs and Symptoms of Fall Allergies 

What does having fall allergies look and feel like? In many cases, very similar to those you'd expect in the springtime. 

Common signs and symptoms of fall allergies include: 

  • Itchy, watery eyes 
  • Sneezing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Dark circles under the eyes 
  • Post-nasal drip 
  • Sore throat 
  • Coughing 
  • Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose 
  • Temporary loss of smell 
  • Headache 

Mitigating Fall Allergies 

Although allergies are less of a thing you can contract and more so something that you can be predisposed to, there are some measures individuals at risk can take to mitigate the severity of their symptoms. 

  • Medication: For those who have pre diagnosed or severe allergies, your doctor may have already prescribed you medication like nasal steroids or antihistamines to help alleviate your symptoms. If this is the case, taking that treatment as prescribed will be your best way of mitigating fall allergies. 
  • Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medication: In cases where you prefer not to go the prescription route, saline sprays and artificial tears are also helpful in flushing pollen from the eyes and nose and reducing symptoms of allergies. 

Broken Bones and Fractures 

As far as injuries go, broken bones and fractures are among the most commonly seen in autumn. They're usually caused by slip and *fall* accidents and occur in the hip, wrist, arm and ankle. 

While the proper use of the terms 'broken bone' and 'fracture' are often convoluted, both refer to situations where a bone has been partially or completely shattered. 

Breaks can happen at any time of year, but are especially likely to occur during autumn. Factors like changing an increase in regular school and sports schedules and of course leaf-covered terrain  all contribute to the risk of slipping, falling and breaking a bone. 

Mitigating Your Risk of Broken Bones and Fractures 

There are a few key things you can do to help prevent broken bones and fractures this autumn. 

First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings. When walking on pavements or sidewalks, always keep an eye out for any potential obstacles in your path. Wet leaves can be particularly slippery, so take extra care when walking on them. 

Second, always warm up before participating 

How Do You Know if You Have a Broken Bone or Fracture? 

The signs and symptoms of broken bones and fractures are usually pretty clear, but can vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. 

Some common indications that you may have suffered a break or fracture include: 

  • Intense pain at the site of injury 
  • Swelling 
  • Bruising 
  • Tenderness 
  • Deformity 
  • Loss of function 
  • Inability to move the affected area 

What to Do if You Think You Have a Broken Bone or Fracture 

If you think you may have suffered a broken bone or fracture, it's important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

There are a few things you can do in the meantime to help ease your pain and prevent further injury, including: 

  • Resting the injured area 
  • Elevating the injured area above heart level 
  • Applying ice to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time 
  • Avoiding putting any weight on the injured area 

Want to make sure you're on top of your health this fall? Trust the professionals at Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic to get you ready for everything the season has to throw at you. 

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