Say “I love you” with flowers, chocolates or a greeting card, but be careful when you kiss this Valentine’s Day, says a prominent doctor. You may be getting — or giving — more than you bargain for.
“Mid-February is usually the peak season for infectious diseases, such as the seasonal and H1N1 flu, mononucleosis, colds and coughs,” says Jorge Parada, M.D., of Loyola University Health System. “And don’t rely on obvious signs of illness — such as sneezing or fever — as a tip-off. People with infectious diseases start shedding the virus before they experience the full effect of the illness.”
Although winter illnesses are often blamed on fluctuating weather or temperatures, the reality is that colds, coughs, and the flu are infectious diseases “caught” through transmission from one human to another.
“Becoming too hot or too cold can cause stress to the body, weaken the defense in fighting off infections and thus make us more vulnerable,” said Parada, who is also a professor of medicine at Stritch School of Medicine. “But a person has to be exposed to a virus or bacteria to catch it.” Dr. Parada feels that the tendency to stay indoors in crowded areas such as shopping malls or movie theatres during cold winter months may promote winter colds and flu.
How are infections commonly spread? Sharing, whether it be drinking from the same glass or sharing dessert with the same fork may be romantic, but it can lead to infections.
Other forms of sharing also spread germs. “Someone can have a cold sore that hasn’t erupted yet and use lip balm which is then shared, and the cold sore virus — otherwise known as herpes — is transmitted,” said Parada. Albeit less frequently, shared linens also are transmitters of infections. “A shared pillowcase, napkin or towel can also actually be a conduit for disease, especially if someone has a sore or cut,” says Parada.
Tips For Safe Displays of Affection:
• Do Give and Get a Flu Shot. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving — you protect yourself, your loved one and you stop the virus from spreading to others,” said Parada. “If that isn’t sexy, and say ‘I love you’ I don’t know what does.”
• Don’t Share Utensils. “Humans can transmit some infections through saliva. A glass, fork or napkin can act as a bridge and pass the bug along to another person when that shared object is used by one infected person and then used by another.”
• Don’t Kiss or Have Close Body Contact if You Feel Unwell. "Throwing up and blowing your nose is not fun. No one enjoys being ill, so sickness is not something to share. Being upfront and honest when you feel under the weather will be appreciated.”
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