Hospitalisations due to COVID-19 have decreased, ushering in a new era in which we can once again celebrate special moments with our loved ones, travel, return to work and grow our futures. It also means we have the opportunity now to catch up on medical check-ups which we may have delayed.
There are many conditions, including COVID-19 and other chronic diseases, which still pose a threat today.
Sr Dalene Rooy, a child health nurse at the Bishop Lavis Community Day Centre, says everyone needs to do their part to protect their health and the health of vulnerable groups, including children. She has called on caregivers and parents to keep their children’s vaccinations up to date. “It is critically important to keep up with vaccinations, particularly in babies and young children. The vaccination programme for young people – which targets deadly diseases such as measles, polio and TB, amongst others, - has saved countless lives over the decades, and continues to be our most effective toolkit in managing severe illnesses in this cohort. With the last of the COVID-19 restrictions lifted, it is critically important for any parents who have not kept up to date with the vaccination of their children to visit their local clinic, with their child’s Road to Health book, to get back up to date.”
Dr Faried Abdullah, who works at the Brackengate Hospital of Hope which treated COVID-19 patients, says: “Vaccines reduce the risks of getting a disease by allowing your body’s natural immune system to be prepared by building strong protection against serious illness such as COVID-19 and measles, to name a few. When people stay up to date with their vaccinations and booster doses against COVID-19, it offers the best protection against having to go to a hospital.”
“With the last wave, a very limited fifth wave, we mostly saw infections from the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Thankfully, most of these cases referred to us had mild disease or even just incidental COVID-19 found as part of a full clinical work-up. The reason for this is likely due to the established vaccination roll-out coupled with high levels of population immunity from infection, proving the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination and booster programmes,” adds Dr Abdullah.
“The protection you get from COVID-19 vaccines can wane over time. If you are offered a booster, you should take it to strengthen your protection against serious disease. If you have not been vaccinated yet or have not received your COVID-19 boosters, there is still time to protect yourself and your loved ones,” says Dr Abdullah.
The vaccination programme is now offered at clinics across the province, including in rural communities and Dr Abdullah adds that good health encompasses more than vaccination as we need to make healthy lifestyle choices to protect our health.
Don’t delay your health needs
While mask-wearing is now voluntary, it is still possible to get COVID-19 and spread it to others after being vaccinated, so be considerate and wear your mask when you are sick or indoors with people living with chronic conditions.
Here are 5 tips to protect your health today through services which are freely and easily available through your local clinic or day hospital:
1. Take charge of your chronic conditions: Take your chronic medication as prescribed. Taking your medication can lead to improved medical outcomes, this means that it can improve your health. In addition, taking your medication and prescribed can lead to lower healthcare costs and reduces your risk of dangerous side effects. Other benefits include controlling your chronic illness ensuring you do not end up in hospital.
2. Keep your child’s vaccinations up to date: Vaccinations protect your child from deadly diseases, such as polio, TB and measles. Check your child’s Road to Health booklet, provided by your local clinic, to ensure that your child has received all their immunisations. If unsure, take your child and their Road to Health Book (clinic card) to the clinic, and ask a nurse to check.
3. Watch your blood pressure: Avoid eating certain foods to improve your health. This include reducing your salt intake. Salt intake of less than 5 grams per day (just under a teaspoon) for adults helps to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. Cut down on sugary treats and processed foods. Do your best to keep your body moving and exercise regularly. You can join your local area’s WoW (WesternCape on Wellness) club for extra motivation and support.
4. Consider mental health support: Asking for help may be intimidating when you are stressed. If you’re struggling to cope, it’s best to seek the assistance from your loved ones or a professional. Visit your clinic to speak to a trained mental healthcare practitioner, or phone Lifeline at 021 461 1113 or SADAG at 0800 12 13 14. No matter how you’re feeling, there are always options and things you can try.
5. Continue to practice safe behaviour: Ensure that you ventilate indoor spaces this winter to allow for fresh air to come in, and germs to go out.
Don’t put off your health needs. A safer and healthier future is possible! Let’s walk the road of wellness together.
*Find your nearest vaccination site here: https://coronavirus.westerncape.gov.za/vaccine/latest-vaccination-sites and get vaccinated or boosted today.