Thursday, October 29, 2015
It’s safe to say that the majority of us will have a cold at some point over the winter months. Whilst colds are usually quite easy to shake off, the flu can be a much more serious matter. Being able to spot the difference between the two can be crucial and this is especially the case for those who are older and those suffering from other health conditions.
In preparation, here are a few tips on what to look out for and how to prevent falling foul of the cold and flu season.
Colds and flu share many of the same viruses, but where over 200 viruses can cause a cold, only 3 will cause the flu. If you have a healthy immune system, then it is relatively easy to overcome a cold. The symptoms of a cold are usually nasal based such as a blocked nose, runny nose, sneezing, coughing or a sore throat. These symptoms usually only last a few days and unless these symptoms persist, you won’t need to visit a doctor.
The flu, on the other hand, is much more severe than the common cold. The flu tends to cause intense fatigue, a fever and aching of the muscles, as well as the symptoms of a cold.
If you suffer from a chronic condition or have a very high fever, chest pains or severe headaches, then regardless of whether you think you have a cold or the flu, you should seek the advice of your GP.
If you are over 65, you will need to take extra caution and it is definitely recommended that you get the flu jab. This is because there is an increased chance of the flu leading to further complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
Children are also more at risk due to weakened immune systems, pregnant women, overweight people and those with serious medical issues should also consider getting the flu jab. The flu jab will be instrumental in helping to prevent you catch the flu this winter.
A flu jab involves injecting inactive strains of the flu virus into your system, and the best time of the year to have this is from the beginning of October to early November. You can get a vaccination from a vaccination clinic at your GP surgery and at some pharmacies.
A flu vaccine will protect you for a year, so you need to have them annually. People eligible for a free flu vaccine are pregnant women, adults over 65, overweight people, people with serious medical conditions, carers for the elderly or disabled who are vulnerable if getting ill, health and social care professionals and those living in a long-stay residential care facility.
It’s always important to speak to your GP or nurse if you have any concerns, but people who should not have the vaccine are those who have had an adverse reaction before and people who have a high temperature. What is more, always ensure that you check the suitability of a vaccine for your child.
The obvious thing to do to prevent you from getting ill is to receive the flu vaccine or flu nasal spray, but there are a number of other things too:
1. Seek any advice from doctors or nurses if you are unsure what steps to take.
2. Always wash your hands to reduce the risk of catching harmful germs, and avoid getting too close to other people who are suffering from a cold or flu.
3. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables to build up your immune system, especially green vegetables, berries, mushrooms, garlic and onion. Yoghurt is also good for providing healthy bacteria. Chicken soup is a firm favourite with the amino acid cysteine released by chicken helping to strengthen immunity to illness.
4. Zinc and Vitamin D supplements can also be useful, but having a generally nutritious diet will help in the long run.
5. In addition to this, get plenty of sleep, regular exercise and avoid smoking. Keep hydrated and try to evade stress.
It’s inevitable that you or someone you know will suffer from a cold or flu this winter. That is why it’s very important to take precautions beforehand, to make sure vulnerable people around you or yourself have the necessary flu vaccinations in order to stay healthy and able to fight off viruses. If you are unsure, always seek advice from your GP or local nurse. Most importantly, look after yourself!