Respiratory infections do occur in summer as extreme heat lowers immunity. Lack of water leads to poor hygiene which also results in these infections. Pollution and stress all play their part too. Viral infections are quite common; they are mostly mild and recovery usually occurs within a week. Typical symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and body aches. Fever is rarely very high and mostly these infections do not confine the patient to the bed. Complications like ear infection, strep throat and pneumonia sometimes occur and have to be treated promptly.
Influenza epidemics and small outbreaks happen quite often in the monsoons in Asia but in colder countries they are seasonal in winter months. It spreads through air and also direct contact. Symptoms are high fever, shivering and chills, sore throat, headache and body pains. These symptoms are similar to those caused by other viruses but are generally more severe. There are many strains like Influenza A, B, and C. The virus changes every season making it difficult to make effective vaccines. Swine flu epidemics also occur, like the H1N1 epidemic in 2009. The H5Ni strain also called Bird Flu has been responsible for limited outbreaks but fortunately has not spread extensively.
Most of these infections are caused by viruses and antibiotics have no effect on them. There are special agents that are effective if given early. Tamiflu is the best known anti-influenza agent. It can reduce symptoms and complications to some extent. For minor infections, treatment of symptoms, plenty of fluids and Vitamin C is all that is required. Complications like ear infection, pneumonia etc. have to be identified early as they can be serious. Prompt antibiotic treatment is indicated.
For the milder infections, avoiding direct contact with infected people and covering the mouth when coughing are all that is needed but these viruses are very contagious and if the immunity is low, infection frequently occurs. Influenza epidemics need public health measures like isolation of infected people and sometimes closing down cinema theatres etc. Wearing face masks reduces risk to some extent. There are no vaccines for the ordinary infections but influenza vaccines are developed every season for the strains most likely to attack. These vaccines have limited efficacy and are recommended for elderly and immune deficient people in the community.
Images: Wikimedia Commons