Staying Healthy This Winter:
Understanding the flu, common cold and how to keep yourself and your family healthy
We’re in the midst of a seasonal change and with colder weather conditions nearing, you will need to help your body transition into the winter season when colds and flu become more prevalent.
Craig Comrie, CEO and Principal Officer at Profmed says, “You may not be able to completely prevent colds and flu this time of year, but by practising good hygiene and being careful to avoid cold germs, you may escape the cold and flu season unscathed.”
Knowing a cold from the flu
Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a dreaded force to be reckoned with during winter. Even though you may brush it off as a case of the sniffles, it is actually more serious than you think.
“The truth is that the flu is actually a relentless and possibly life-threatening disease which kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year,” says Comrie.
Common flu symptoms include severe headache, pain in the joints and fever. If left untreated, more serious complications can occur, such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and other bacterial infections. A cold, on the other hand, is a milder respiratory illness and may be associated with a sore throat and runny nose.
Knowing your seasonal flu from other strains
In 2009, the World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled the H1N1 strain of flu, better known as Swine Flu, a pandemic. H1N1 is more dangerous than seasonal flu and can cause more serious health problems for those who contract it. It presents the same symptoms as seasonal flu (as above), but symptoms can evolve to more serious infections like pneumonia or other breathing problems, especially if you’re diabetic or have been diagnosed with asthma.
Please note: If you experience any shortness of breath, severe vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness or confusion along with flu symptoms, you need to contact your doctor.
Flu can be costly
In a recent H1N1 case, a Profmed patient contracted the virus and, having not received the flu vaccine, the infection developed complications and she spent weeks in an intensive care unit. After several months of treatment, she still has not recovered fully.
This type of infection could have a severe financial impact on your life. Prolonged sick leave, unpaid leave and medical costs could skyrocket. In this case, the final treatment account came to R1.2 million.
How to protect yourself from the flu
Get your flu shot: Visit your doctor or pharmacy as soon as the vaccine is available. While the vaccine does not protect you from all strains of flu, you could lessen the severity and duration of flu symptoms should you become ill. The flu vaccine will protect you against Swine Flu (H1N1).
Take Probiotics: Eating foods that contain probiotics, such as yoghurt, reduces the incidence of upper respiratory infections (like the common cold).
Say no to unnecessary antibiotics: People with viral infections, like influenza, often get antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. This does not treat viral infections. If you take antibiotics when it is not needed, it can lead to drug-resistant strains of infections.
Antibiotic resistance is becoming a serious public health problem. Bacteria that may cause serious diseases are evolving to become resistant to most commonly prescribed antibiotics. These bacteria can then spread from person-to-person and cause serious outbreaks of untreatable diseases.
Feed your body with water and healthy foods: General good health practices strengthen your immune system and help to fend off cold germs and the flu virus. Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins, and complex carbohydrates.
Incorporate enough exercise and rest into your day: Exercise boosts your immune system and can help prevent cold and flu viruses from making you sick. Similarly, getting enough sleep is essential for healthy immune function. If you have contracted the flu, please refrain from any exercise.
Be germ conscious: Ensure you wash your hands regularly. This will help to get rid of cold germs you pick up from doorknobs and stair rails and keep you from getting them into your body. Keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer handy is a good idea to help disinfect hands and prevent flu and cold viruses.
Stay home if you’re not well: Influenza spreads via direct contact, contaminated surfaces or inhalation, so there’s a higher chance to get infected at work. Stay at home if you’re sick to prevent spreading the virus to your colleagues – especially in open-plan offices.
“By practicing the above-mentioned tips you can reduce and possibly completely skip the cold and flu season, emerging on the other end with very little battle wounds. Avoiding germs and ensuring your immune system is strong and functioning are vital during season changes,” concludes Comrie.