The 5 main (and most contagious) winter illnesses!

Verified on 15/11/2023 by Alexane Flament, Editor
Les 5 principales (et plus contagieuses) maladies hivernales !

The cold season is back, and with it its share of viruses! During the cold season, we’re more vulnerable because our immune systems are weakened, so viruses prefer to attack us during this period.

Fatigue, overwork, stress, low temperatures: the body is more exposed to illness during the cold season!

Illness is also more common in winter, as contaminated respiratory droplets move more easily through dry air when a sick person coughs or sneezes.

As a result, millions of people fall ill every winter. But what are the most common winter illnesses? We tell you!

How are seasonal viruses transmitted?

When winter sets in with its blanket of snow and freezing temperatures, it brings with it a series of challenges for our immune systems. Winter illnesses are often contagious and spread rapidly! But how?

Winter viruses are spread by a variety of means, including airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes, and direct contact with contaminated hands or objects touched by sick people.

Transmission vectors include handshakes, toys, soft toys, elevator buttons, doorknobs and cutlery.

Prevention by hand washing and avoiding close contact remains crucial to controlling the seasonal spread of these viruses!

What are the main winter diseases?

During the cold season, many viruses are present. There are the respiratory viruses responsible for colds, nasopharyngitis, flu and bronchitis. Then there are the viruses responsible for gastroenteritis, most often called « rota viruses » and « noroviruses ».

« Influenza, gastroenteritis and bronchiolitis are the main infections caused by winter viruses. These three diseases affect millions of people every year, and have a major impact on healthcare facilities during the winter months, » explains Santé Publique France.

Influenza, a formidable invader

The flu remains one of winter’s most dreaded viruses! This virus spreads more easily in dry, cold air.

Characterized by symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme fatigue and headaches, it spreads rapidly by air. Flu usually lasts a week, but can last up to 30 days.

Gastroenteritis, a contagious disease

This inflammatory disease of the digestive tract is highly contagious! Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, and stomach ache.

It generally lasts between 3 and 5 days. It spreads rapidly in confined environments such as schools and workplaces.

Good to know : Hand hygiene and surface disinfection are essential to control its spread.

Bronchiolitis, a viral infection

This bronchial infection mainly affects children under the age of 2. Common and highly contagious, bronchiolitis is characterized by a low-grade fever and a cough that starts out dry, then turns oily. Most often benign, it lasts about ten days.

Good to know: Frequent nose washing to clear nasal passages is essential!

Rhinopharyngitis, a frequent companion

Rhinopharyngitis, commonly known as the common cold, is a common winter guest. The common cold is an inflammation of the pharynx and nasal passages that causes a runny nose, sneezing, fever and coughing.

The common cold is highly contagious and particularly affects children under the age of 6! This viral infection can last from 5 to 10 days!

Good to know: Regular hand-washing and avoiding close contact with sick people are simple but effective measures to prevent transmission.

Bronchitis, a respiratory virus

Bronchitis, often triggered by viral infections, affects the respiratory tract and can persist for weeks. People with bronchitis may experience a persistent cough and breathing difficulties.

Good to know: Protecting the respiratory tract by wearing scarves and avoiding sudden temperature changes can help reduce the risk of bronchitis.