What to do when the winter months bring colds and flu

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Nights are getting colder and we are starting to feel the winter creeping upbringing with it the season of more colds and flu. Fortunately, medical attention is mostly not necessary for either of these illnesses as they are viral infections which cannot be cured with antibiotics. There are also a number of actions you can take to reduce your chances of going down with a cold or flu.

When we get the sniffles in winter, it is most often a common cold where all the symptoms are above the neck.  Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and possibly a mild fever and cough. You don’t feel really sick and will usually recover within a few days without any medical attention. You can allow yourself a bit of extra sleep and medication like paracetamol will relieve the symptoms.

Infection with an influenza virus (flu) affects 10-15% of people every year and makes you feel much sicker than a common cold. Symptoms can include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, chills and a high fever, tiredness, aching muscles, dizziness and possibly a headache. You should put yourself to bed until you are no longer feverish – usually for two to three days. Pushing yourself to work will not only slow down your recovery but also increase your chances of developing complications – and spread the disease to others. Paracetamol every four hours will reduce the pain and fever and extra fluids will help to thin the excess mucus in your airways. You can get medication from a pharmacy to treat other specific symptoms like a blocked nose and coughing. After a bout of flu, you are likely to feel tired and mildly depressed for a week or two after you have recovered.

Antibiotics do not help for the viruses that cause colds and influenza.  The worldwide overuse of antibiotics, when they are not effective or necessary, is causing an increase of bacteria that are resistant to them and this is becoming a major threat to global health.  Never try and treat yourself with antibiotics that have not been prescribed by a health practitioner and don’t insist on them if your health provider says that they aren’t necessary.  You must also complete any course of antibiotics prescribed for you and never share them with anyone else.

While your body’s immune response is weakened by the flu you could develop a secondary bacterial infection that may need treatment with antibiotics. Visit a qualified health care practitioner if after 4-5 days your flu symptoms – such as a sore throat, sinus pain or a cough – have become worse rather than improving gradually, or the mucus from your nose or lungs becomes thick and coloured rather than clear.

The viruses are transmitted through the air when infected person coughs or sneezes and the droplets can also settle on objects in the environment. While at work, wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your nose and eyes, and try to limit contact with infected persons. Open windows for fresh air, avoid stuffy, smoky environments and lastly, stay warm.

 

 

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