Your throat hurts, you are hot, you cannot breathe properly and the running nose is starting to irritate you. Well, by now you know that winter has befallen us and it is this time of the season when your immune systems seems to go into early retirement and your system quietly welcomes any foreign body. The result ; you feel miserable.
Pharmacist Stan Godfrey from the Klein Windhoek Pharmacy says it is around this time that clients come in complaining of a multiplicity of discomforts such as the sore throat whilst sneezing and coughing. Like clockwork, the change in temperature automatically introduces our body for tough health times.
Far too many people get sick during winter. For a period of three months, doctors are inundated with patient care, flu shots on sale and this lasts until spring when allergy season takes over. And the unfortunate thing is that this lasts for three months.
Well, the common knowledge is that cold weather depresses the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to disease. There is no evidence to suggest that the cold weather alone is responsible for the rise in illness. So why does it happen ?
One possible answer could be that when it gets cold outside, people stay indoors. Close doors and recycled air provide a higher contact time for diseases. Thus, when we are brought together or remain confined indoors, we swap diseases.
People who are sick can spread the bacteria (or virus if it’s the flu) to others up to six feet away by coughing, sneezing or spitting while talking. A person can also get sick by touching an object that has the bug on it then touching their own mouth or nose.
“All it takes if for one person in the house to have an illness and the rest will get their share by default,” said Godfrey.
Below are a few illnesses that may visit you this winter as identified by the pharmacist.
Cold or Flu
Many confuse the two but they are actually quite different. A flu is a virus while the cold is a bacterial illness. According to Godfrey, symptoms of a cold usually come on gradually, whereas symptoms of the flu can appear suddenly. Symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy nose and sore throat are more common with colds than with the flu. People with the flu usually develop a fever, whereas people with colds rarely do. The flu often causes body aches and headaches, which can be severe. If you have a cold, aches are usually mild.
Regardless of whether you have a cold or the flu, the illness will usually go away on its own, but you should visit your doctor if your symptoms change or get worse. Godfrey adds you can also get a seasonal flu vaccine to protect yourself from the flu, However there is no vaccine to protect you from the common cold. Since colds are viral infections with no ideal treatment, fluids and rest, decongestants, cough syrups, and antihistamines can help ease symptoms.
A flu is caused by a virus that infects the lungs and airways and can be spread through direct contact or air droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. Symptoms include a sudden fever, accompanied by chills and shakes, extreme fatigue, muscle aches, a hacking cough, and nausea. To many of us, we say we have a flu when we experience a running nose. Treatment includes rest, fluids, and acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and aches.
There is a high chance that your cold will develop into sinusitis, an inflammation of the lining of the sinuses that is usually caused by allergies or another infection. Symptoms include nasal congestion and thick nasal discharge, as well as pain, tenderness, swelling, and pressure around the nose. Sinusitis causes a persistent cough, sore throat or bad breath. If the infection spreads, it can lead to fever and chills. For sinusitis, Godfrey recommends antihistamine, cetirizine or the loratadine drugs. Otherwise, one should can take their regular paracetamol for the fever. Over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays can be used for up to three days.
The illness aptly described as an inflammation of the airways is usually caused by viruses, bacteria or allergies. Symptoms include difficulty in breathing and a severe cough that may last several weeks. You also develop a slight fever. Treatment for bronchitis is rest and fluids, though antibiotics can help if the infection is bacterial.
Medication such as suppressants and codeine phosphate can suppress a dry cough, but if the cough produces phlegm, talk to your pediatrician about giving a syrup with an expectorant to make it easier for your child to bring up the sputum. For a wet cough, the pharmacist recommends bronchodilator, theophylline and mucolytic.
A sore throat is another of the first symptoms of a cold gone bad and an array of different medical disorders. One quick and easy remedy for a sore throat is the traditional move to gargle with warm salty water. It doesn’t necessarily heal the infection, but it has anti-inflammatory properties and can have a soothing effect.
Godfrey said that while there is no specific diet for the season, he advises the consumption of foods with Vitamin C as it boosts the immune system.
Otherwise, washing your hands frequently can also help prevent either a cold or the flu, since both conditions can spread from person to person via contact with contaminated surfaces. If you get sick with either a cold or the flu, it is important to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest to help your body recovers.
“As soon as you get that sore throat or running nose, it is a sign to visit your pharmacy. Start at the pharmacy before the doctor,” concluded Godfrey.