As the leaves change and chillier weather sets in across the country, certain illnesses rise to their peak and spread throughout schools and workplaces.

Due to the evolution from hot to milder air and the piling of children back into schools, a mess of germs sparks the start of a new season of illnesses that sweep through every corner of the country.

When the weather turns sharper with icy temperatures, colder air and darker skies in the winter, the threat of catching certain widespread illnesses turns greater.

1. Seasonal flu – According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, fall’s kickoff sparks the onset of flu season, beginning in the autumn months and stretching into as late as May.

The flu typically peaks in January and February during the brunt of winter.

A respiratory illness, the flu spreads from person to person, mostly through coughs, sneezes and even general talking. It is possible to contract the flu by touching a surface infected with the flu virus then transmitting it to your mouth, nose or eyes. Up to 20 percent of the population will be impacted by the flu each year.

2. Common cold – Common colds can affect anyone at any time of the year, but peak cold activity hits during the winter and rainy months, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). An upper respiratory infection, colds are spread similarly to the flu. Colds ordinarily bring nasal congestion, scratchy throats and sneezing along with other symptoms depending on the strain.

3. Norovirus – Norovirus reaches its highest strength during the winter months. An extremely contagious virus, norovirus is the cause of up to 21 million illnesses each year, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreaks spread from person to person, most commonly in long-term care facilities.

4. Acute ear infections – Ear infections, especially in children, are more likely to occur in winter than any other season, according to UMMC. Changes in climate, especially as colder air takes hold, will enhance the threat of an acute ear infection. UMMC also says that ear infections are the number one reason parents take their children to the doctor. Symptoms of general ear pain and even nausea can be the most disruptive symptoms.

5. Bronchiolitis – A virus that impacts children, mostly under the age of two, bronchiolitis is a swelling and mucus buildup within the smallest lung air passages, according to UMMC. The virus peaks in the fall and winter months. It most commonly is caused by a viral infection and is spread from person to person when coming in direct contact with nose and throat fluids of someone carrying the virus.

The CDC and UMMC recommends to wash hands frequently as the easiest way to prevent the spread of any of the illnesses. Disinfect counter tops, door knobs and other frequently touched surfaces often.

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