MAYWOOD, Ill. - Say “I love you” with flowers, chocolates or a greeting card but be careful when you kiss this Valentine’s Day.
“Mid-February is usually the peak season for infectious diseases, such as the seasonal flu, mononucleosis, colds and coughs,” said Jorge Parada, MD, medical director, infectious disease at 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."
Changing weather or temperatures are often blamed for winter’s coughs and sniffles. But in reality, 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 going more often to crowded indoor venues such as shopping malls or movie theatres may promote winter colds and flu.
In addition, Dr. Parada said that while drinking from the same wine glass or sharing dessert with the same fork may seem romantic, it also may lead to infections. And keep your chopstick to yourself.
“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,” Parada said. 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,” Parada said.
Do’s and Don’ts 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,” Parada said. “If that isn’t sexy, and say ‘I love you,’ then 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."
Parada said people should be aware that it takes 10-14 days after injection for the flu shot to have full preventive effect.