Respiratory viruses, including influenza, rhinoviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), have recently made a comeback. In 2022, influenza activity returned to pre-COVID pandemic levels, and the United States experienced a severe surge in RSV cases. As the 2023-2024 cold and flu season begins, experts fear it will be on par with last year. It's important to pay attention to your health during this time and look for early signs of infection.
Before developing a sore throat, a tickle or lump may form in the back of the throat. This is one of the first noticeable signs of an impending illness. The body produces molecules, such as bradykinin, which stimulate sensory receptors in the throat and contribute to a swollen, raw feeling.
Feeling fatigued and lacking energy is another early sign of illness. The body releases cytokines, which activate immune cells and trigger inflammation. This inflammation can leave you feeling run down and cause muscle aches.
Excessive sneezing in the days leading up to congestion or a cough is the body's way of forcefully eliminating a virus. Sneezing expels viruses and can prevent them from spreading to others.
Headaches may result from sinus pressure or dehydration. Inflammation from the immune system can also cause headaches as it fights off infection.
Feeling cranky, irritable, or weepy is common when getting sick. Mood swings and behavioral changes, known as "sickness behavior," are associated with illnesses like the common cold or influenza. These symptoms motivate people to rest and recover.
Paying attention to these early symptoms can help you take care of yourself and give your body the opportunity to fight off the illness. Stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and eat well. While you may not be able to completely avoid the infection, taking care of yourself can ease symptoms and aid in recovery.