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 and H1N1 flu, mononucleosis, colds and coughs," says 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 winter trends such as staying indoors in crowded arenas such as shopping malls or movie theatres may promote winter colds and flu.
Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes
Drinking from the same wine glass or sharing dessert with the same fork may seem romantic, but 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," 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.