With the seasons changing, we are seeing more colds and flu, but becoming infected has nothing to do with being outside in the cold weather. Both colds and flu are very infectious and spread by close contact with a cold sufferer or inhaling cold virus spray in the air.
A cold and a flu are two different infections. The common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. It is very infectious and spread by close contact with a cold sufferer or inhaling cold virus spray in the air. Common symptoms are a runny nose sometimes with a cough, weepy eyes and sore throats. It usually lasts around a week.
The flu (influenza) is a more serious viral infection that can affect the whole body. It is much more debilitating than a cold and comes on very quickly. It is often accompanied by a high temperature that lasts several days. Headaches, extreme tiredness and aching limbs are also symptoms. The flu can last up to three weeks and causes the death of many New Zealanders each year.
Occasionally colds and flu’s can be complicated with a bacterial infection which can lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, throat infections, middle ear infections and sinusitis. In these cases, you should see your doctor as antibiotics may be helpful. A child with symptoms such as a very sore throat, vomiting, high fever, a blotchy rash, stiff neck, joint or muscle pains, aversion to light, a strange high-pitched cry, extreme lethargy or irritability should be taken to the doctor immediately to rule out the possibility of serious illnesses such as meningococcal disease.
How can I treat a cold?
Antibiotics won’t help a viral infection, so if bothered by a cough, blocked nose or sore throat, ask your pharmacist for a product to relieve the symptoms. Cold and flu preparations and throat lozenges offer some relief and paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used to bring down fevers. Inhalants such as menthol and eucalyptus can be added to hot water and inhaled to help clear the nose. Try aloe vera tissues or barrier creams on the nose to soothe sore, dry skin.
How can I treat the flu?
Anti-viral medicines are available to treat influenza and prevent the infection worsening, if treated early. Ask our pharmacists if it is right for you. If flu symptoms are bothering you, they can be relieved as for a cold.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure and we recommend that you have a flu vaccination annually. It is inactivated flu viruses given to trigger your body to build immunity so if you are exposed again, then you can fight it off quickly and without significant symptoms. Pharmacist Vaccinators can offer free flu vaccines to adults over 65 years and pregnant women, making it easy to have your vaccination.
Top tips for managing colds and flu's:
- Stay healthy by maintaining a diet rich in colourful fresh foods; a healthy gut with good probiotics; sleep well, stress less and take time to get out for some exercise.
- If you are prone to infections, check your levels of minerals in your body and correct any deficiencies, particularly zinc. Vitamin A, C, selenium and zinc may help to reduce the intensity and duration of a cold. Supplement or add foods to your diet rich in zinc (fish), vitamin C (oranges, strawberries, capsicum, kale, broccoli), garlic and honey to boost your immunity.
- Rest in bed and keep your fluids up. Fruit juice high in vitamin C or hot water with lemon and honey are good options. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and milk. Eat easily digested foods such as vegetable or chicken soup for nutrition.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene if you have a cold or flu, to limit the spread of the virus. Wash your hands frequently, cough into a tissue and dispose of it carefully and don’t infect your co-workers by going to work or school.