Keeping your ‘cool’ in winter
Runny noses, wet coughs and high fevers are synonymous with the winter season. Not only are these symptoms quite debilitating, but they sometimes leave us looking quite worse for wear, make us short-tempered and generally more prone to losing our cool! Almost to show off their slyness, cold viruses usually make themselves known during the time of year that requires us to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity to others.
Western Cape Government Health has put together a few handy hints and tips to help you and your loved ones steer clear of colds and flu; as well as ways to treat them when despite your best effort, your cool is replaced with heat and discomfort associated with these viruses.
Colds and flu are not caused by cold! Dressing warmly, wearing hats and not getting wet in the rain ensure that we are comfortable, but colds are viruses and are spread by people being in contact with one another. During winter, we tend to keep windows and doors closed, sit inside instead of out and partake in indoor activities. Adding a couple of cold viruses to a warm, people-filled space such as a bus or a classroom is a sure way in which to spread the misery of colds!
Avoiding colds and flu in these conditions can seem impossible. However, there are some measures that teachers and public transporters, in fact anyone who comes into contact with other people, can implement to help prevent infection.
- Fresh Air: Open the windows, even if only a little so as to ensure that there is regular exchange of fresh air within the room or space. This simple practice allows the old stale air to be exchanged with fresh, germfree air.
- Washing Hands: People tend to forget that every time we touch a different surface, we are picking up all the germs left there by others. What’s more is that we are then taking those germs along with us to a new area. In other words, if you use the railing at the train door, you take all the germs of everyone else who also used the railing with you. Now imagine that you run your hand through your hair, leaving a trail of ambitious cold and flu germs in fairly close proximity to your nose and mouth. Or one goes to work and before even washing hands, you shake the hand of a colleague. And there we go, sharing the germs from the train to someone new. Hand sanitisers and wet wipes with antiseptic properties can be used when water and soap are not immediately available. Remember though, washing one’s hands with warm water and soap, remains the most effective method of ensuring that you do not spread germs.
However, despite our best intentions, when we do develop a cold, there are some measures that we can use to ensure that we do not spread the virus on to our loved ones or colleagues. Spittle and mucous are filled with cold and flu germs; we want to avoid exposing others.
- Cough Etiquette: This means that you are considerate when you cough. Cover your cough! Cough into your elbow so that the germs do not spread via your hands.
- Sneeze into a tissue, and throw the tissue away in a bin or flush it down a loo. Do not leave used tissues lying around. Tissues are preferable to handkerchiefs. If you do use handkerchiefs, ensure that you use a fresh one daily!
There are some important factors to remember while your body is fighting a cold:
- Do not exercise; just take it easy for a few days.
- Stay warm and dry as this helps you feel better.
- Drink lots of liquids, preferably drinks such as water, watered down juices or freshly made juice. Rooibos tea, with a couple of slices of ginger and/or lemon and a dash of honey make a soothing warm drink. Try and stay away from milky drinks as these tend to be high in sugars.
- Eat light nourishing foods such as soups and broths.
- Ask your local pharmacist for advice on relieving symptoms and take any medication as prescribed. Children under that age of 16 should not drink remedies that contain aspirin.
- If your symptoms become worse, visit your local clinic or healthcare provider.
Please bear in mind that people with illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure, have a chronic illness, are HIV positive or take immune suppressants are at far higher risk of developing a cold that can cause secondary infections which may require antibiotics.
Children who get a cold should be looked after properly as they too can easily develop more serious conditions such pneumonia and ear infections.
If you are in any way concerned, please consult your clinic or healthcare professional.