"Mid-February is usually the peak season for infectious diseases, such as the seasonal and H1N1 flu, mononucleosis, colds and coughs," said Jorge Parada, M.D., 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."
Parada, who also is a professor of preventive medicine at Stritch School of Medicine, offers the following tips to avoid getting sick this Valentine's Day:
Don't kiss or have close body contact if you feel under the weather. "Throwing up and blowing your nose is not fun. No one wants to be ill, so being upfront and honest when you feel under the weather will be appreciated," Parada said.
Don't share utensils. Drinking from the same wine glass or sharing dessert with the same fork may seem romantic, but also may lead to infections.
Don't share your chapstick, either. "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," Parada explained.
Use separate linens. Even linens, such as shared pillowcases, napkins or towels can transmit infections, especially if someone has a sore or cut.
Last but not least, get a flu shot. "It's the gift that keeps on giving – you protect yourself, your loved one and you stop the virus from spreading to others," said Parada. "If that isn't sexy, and say ‘I love you,' I don't know what does."