CONSIDERING that the winter season is upon us, it is only befitting that we get to understand some basic concepts associated with common illness that often occur this time of the season. Although quite often used interchangeably there is a clear distinctive difference between cold, flu and allergic rhinitis. The cold is often characterized by a slow gradual onset, mild in presentation and caused by multiple viruses. Flu or influenza on the other hand is often abrupt or sudden in onset, worse in presentation compared to a cold and caused only by an influenza virus be it Type A, B or C. Allergic Rhinitis on the other hand develop as an over reaction of an immune system to an allergen or allergens e.g. dust, grass or animal hair or pollen.
The clinical presentation or what we often refer to as signs and symptoms may overlap. This include fever, headache, muscle ache, stuffy or runny nose, coughing, chills, sore throat, sneezing, red itchy watery eyes, swollen eyes and fatigue but just to mention a few. This illness is common during the winter season and often impact on individuals’ immune system such as, rendering them less productive, keeping them from work. It is therefore against this background that it becomes of paramount importance that we fortify ourselves this winter and build up robust immune systems to help fight off this illness.
In medicine, there is a saying “prevention is better than cure”. I would like to highlight some few basic cost-effective measures that one can take to help protect yourself from this illness. It is probably advisable to get a flu-shot (vaccine) right at the onset of the winter season, Vitamin-C supplements will go a long way this time around that one can obtain on self-medication or over-the-counter at the pharmacies without a prescription. Good hand hygiene is advocated such as sanitizing your hands before eating, touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Make sure your office is properly ventilated around this time. The etiquette of being considerate of others when sneezing or coughing by covering your mouth or nose with your hands.
In an event you suspect that you might be coming down with a flu or cold or have symptoms that could suggest you might have an allergic rhinitis, it is advisable that you visit you doctor or any health facility for further management. Prompt management does not only help keep your well, but it also keeps you from spreading the bug to your family or colleagues at work thus protecting others. While at home it is also advocated for that the consumption of honey, lemons, ginger, garlic help boost your immune system to fight off this illness. Drinking a lot of fluids and gargling salt water helps keep you from contracting throat infections. In case of Allergic Rhinitis, dust your house regularly especially your bedroom, use blinds instead of curtains because blinds hold less dust. Avoid outdoor activities and restrict pets in your house.
I do trust if you can adhere to some of these basic principles you will have a different experience this winter. To our dear parents, always do your due diligence and make sure that the daycare you enroll your children into is up to standard and does not pose further risk. Finally keep warm, drink that cup of soup, eat few lemons this winter, stay healthy, keep strong and beat the winter. See you at work, flu, colds or allergic rhinitis must not keep you from work.
The above article was written by Dr. Makemba Shayela Nelson – MBChB – University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. Nesha Medical Practice.
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