While it may be colloquially known as the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas and its surrounding wintery months are also synonymous with becoming ill.
With temperatures on the decline, days becoming shorter and many people eating more unhealthily than usual, our body’s immune systems can take a substantial hit. This, in turn, makes us a lot more susceptible to illness, which explains why more people tend to catch colds over winter.
This increased vulnerability to infection is particularly important to consider in pets and children especially. After all, the last thing you want over Christmas is for your child to not enjoy themselves being ill, or to have to deal with expensive vet bills on top of the presents you’ve had to buy.
Join us as we take a look at five winter illnesses known to affect both pets and children. From circumstantial diseases like hypothermia to more severe ‘zoonose’ infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), here are the key conditions to watch out for.
Mumps is a viral disease known to cause fever and headache in humans, leading to the eventual painful swelling of the neck’s salivary glands.
Fortunately, thanks to the success of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, the disease is fairly rare nowadays, but it can crop up more frequently over the winter months. It is also largely seen to affect children but can affect dogs as well, causing similar signs and symptoms.
If anyone in your household is diagnosed with the Mumps, you should, therefore, try to keep them away from your dog and other pets as much as you can.
Hypothermia is another condition that can affect humans and pets alike. Just because dogs are surrounded by a fluffy coat of fur, that doesn’t mean they’re any less susceptible to the colder winter weather. In fact, if their soggy fur were to freeze, their hypothermia risk could actually substantially increase as a result.
Symptoms of hyperthermia are often similar across both humans and pets. Shivering, lethargy and listlessness are all commonly seen, with the best prevention methods simply being to ‘keep patients/pets as warm as possible’.
Frostbite tends to go hand in hand with hypothermia, as both conditions are linked with the extremely low external temperatures. In both children and pets, the condition occurs when the body gets too cold, drawing blood to its centre in order to maintain a safe body temperature.
As a result, particular bodily organs – like ears, fingers, paws and tails – can become effectively frozen, becoming cold enough to form ice crystals in the tissues. The formation of these crystals then leads to tissue damage and a wide range of symptoms, including shivering, drowsiness and a loss of consciousness.
In the same way as preventing hypothermia, being in a warm environment is key to avoiding the issue. Warm water should be applied to any affected areas, in order to restore the blood circulation.
MRSA is a condition caused by bacteria which has developed resistance against a number of different antibiotics. Over the winter period, when immune systems are already fairly vulnerable, MRSA can play particular havoc, causing skin infections, pneumonia, septicaemia and several other issues.
The bacteria can also be carried by both humans and dogs, meaning it is transmissible in both directions. However, to determine whether your dog can carry it or not, a vet will first need to take a bacterial culture from a non-healing wound using a specialist diagnostic kit. Only after they’ve been proved to be a carrier scientifically should you worry about keeping your dog away from any potential MRSA sufferer.
Passively inhaling smoke from cigarettes is not technically a disease, but it can lead to the development of a wide range of conditions. Plus, when you think about Christmas, many people typically spend a lot more time indoors, celebrating the festive period with friends and families.
Therefore, if adults aren’t disciplined when it comes to smoking around children, a lot of damage could be caused as a result. Children and pets will be inhaling the second-hand smoke after all, which – as a result – could heighten their risk of cell damage, cancer, obesity and asthma. Talk about a bad Christmas present.