As the weather becomes colder , and you tend to spend more of your time indoors, you’re also more likely to catch cold and flu viruses. The cold and flu season can begin as early as May and usually ends sometime in September, but long-lasting sickness isn’t inevitable.
To help you and your family stay healthy all winter long, start here:
What is it?
The common cold, also called viral rhinitis, is one of the most common infectious diseases in humans. The infection is usually mild and improves without treatment.
The common cold is an upper respiratory infection that is caused by several families of viruses
Since so many viruses can cause cold symptoms, development of a vaccine for the common cold has not been possible.
There is no evidence that going out in cold or rainy weather makes you more likely to catch a cold.
The common cold causes a group of symptoms that are easily recognized by patients and doctors.
About 50% of patients will develop a sore throat, which is often the first symptom to appear because it can occur as early as 10 hours after infection.
This is followed by congestion in the nose and sinuses, a runny nose and sneezing.
High fevers are rare with the common cold.
The common cold most often is transmitted by direct contact with germs from the nose, mouth, or coughed or sneezed droplets from someone who is infected, usually by hand-to-hand contact.
It is possible to become infected by touching a surface, such as a table top or doorknob that was recently touched by an infected person, and then touching your eyes or nose.
These viruses also can be spread by inhaling particles from the air after an infected person has coughed or sneezed.
If possible, you should avoid close, prolonged exposure to people who have colds.
People who exercise regularly, especially those who exercise daily, have fewer colds per year than those who are less active.
Although medical therapies can improve the symptoms of the common cold, they do not prevent, cure or shorten the illness.
Drink enough fluids, get plenty of rest and treat your symptoms to keep yourself as comfortable as possible.
Gargling warm salt water can soothe a sore throat. Inhaling steam may improve nasal congestion temporarily. Over-the-counter cold remedies that contain a decongestant will help to dry secretions and relieve congestion. These remedies may also relieve cough, if the cough is triggered by mucus in the throat.
Antihistamines may improve the symptoms of runny nose and watery eyes, but they should be used with care because over-the-counter versions cause sedation.
Over-the-counter cough suppressants do not have a proven benefit, but some people feel that they are helpful.
It is important to keep in mind that antibiotics do not cure the common cold or shorten the length of time that symptoms last.
Vitamin C and Echinacea (a frequently used herbal therapy) have been widely rumoured to decrease the likelihood of developing the common cold and to shorten symptoms, but no conclusive research has shown that this is true.
What is it?
Influenza (the flu), is a respiratory infection. It is caused by the influenza virus. Influenza typically is spread by air or by direct contact from one person to another. Influenza virus is very contagious and peaks during the winter months.
Compared with other viruses, influenza can strike remarkably large numbers of people in a relatively short time. In the developed nations, about 10-15% of the people get the flu each year.
Flu can cause a variety of symptoms. They can be mild or severe. Symptoms and severity depend on the type of virus, your age and overall health.
Although it is a respiratory virus, flu can affect other body systems. This makes you feel sick all over. Symptoms can include any or all of the following:
· Moderate to high fever
· Sore throat
· Runny nose
· Muscle aches
Dangerous complications also can develop from flu. One of the most feared complications is a bacterial super infection. A super infection occurs when the influenza virus attacks a lung and weakens its defences. This makes the body susceptible to bacterial pneumonia.
Certain people are especially vulnerable to complications. These include:
· People older than 50
· People with certain chronic diseases
· People with suppressed immune systems
Options for heading off an attack of influenza have increased in recent years.
Vaccination —can reduce your chances of getting the flu and transmitting it to others. Vaccination each year is recommended for all people particularly Children, seniors or those with internal organ disorders.
The standard flu vaccine helps healthy people younger than 65 to avoid the disease or lessen its severity.
Good hygiene — The virus usually is passed through the air, by coughing. It also is passed by direct contact, such as shaking hands or kissing.
Practicing good hygiene can help you to avoid getting the flu or spreading it to others. Good hygiene includes covering your mouth when you cough and washing your hands frequently.
Antiviral drugs — Zanamivir (Relenza) and oseltamivir (Tamiflu) can substantially reduce your chance of getting the flu if they are taken just before an expected outbreak.
To ease symptoms, your doctor will recommend that you rest and drink plenty of fluids.
For fever and body aches, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers. The antiviral drugs zanamivir or oseltamivir , taken within 48 hours of the start of symptoms may speed recovery by about one day.
Because flu is a viral infection, antibiotics are not effective.
Children who are suspected of having flu, and who have high fevers should be given acetaminophen (Tylenol). They should never be given aspirin to treat the fever. This can cause the disease called Reye’s syndrome.
I hope this helps you and your family keep Healthy and Fit this winter.
Yours in health,