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Beat The Winter Cold & Flu Woes With Self-Care

Beat The Winter Cold & Flu Woes With Self-Care

As winter approaches, we all fear coming down with the common cold and flu viruses. For most people, viral respiratory illnesses are usually self-limited and last only a few days. But while colds and flu viruses make millions of us feel dreadful every year, they can largely be avoided – with responsible self-care.

“During the months of winter, consumers increase their intake of Vitamin C with the intention of banning the ‘sniffles’. But to ensure that you hold your own during the cold and wet season, it is essential to maintain a solid self-care routine and obtain sound knowledge about practicing safe and effective self-care,” says Allison Vienings, Executive Director of the Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA).

Colds or flu occur when viruses are able to overcome the body’s immune system and are mostly transmitted through the air by coughs and sneezes, hand-to-hand contact with an infected person, or touching an object or inhaling air that is contaminated with the virus.


The difference between the common cold and flu is that a cold takes a up to 12 hours to develop, manifests in a sore throat, stuffy or runny nose or headache– the cold symptoms you begin to feel. The symptoms worsen and after 48 hours the effect of the virus starts to diminish. Over the counter medications may be used to treat the symptoms. Flu can occur rapidly and unexpectedly, with symptoms that are generally more intense than those experienced with a cold, i.e. body aches, fatigue, fever and headaches. Because flu infects the bronchial tubes and the lungs, it’s also more serious than a cold.


“Your self-care routine should consist of prevention and management components. As your prevention method, keep your hands clean, get vaccinated and consider assembling a simple home care kit for surviving colds and flu. This will mostly consist of products that are routine medicines, of which you might already have in your medicine cabinet,” suggests Vienings.


Keep these medicines and health products on hand for when the cold or flu bugs bite:


• Fever and pain relievers
• Cough syrups and drops
• Nasal sprays
• Decongestants
• Thermometer
• Fluids
• Tissues
• Multi -vitamins


The best ways to manage a cold or the flu is to:


• Listen to your body. If your body says it needs rest, then make yourself comfortable and do what it needs. Ignore its requirements and it will take longer to recover.
• Increase fluid intake. Drink three to four extra glasses of water a day to replace the moisture lost from coughing and sneezing.
• Try appropriate over-the-counter medication. It is important to use the correct medication, following the indications and correct dosage.
• Talk to your pharmacist or healthcare specialist. They have a great deal of knowledge and treatment advice to save you time and money.
• Use self-monitoring and self-management. Should the symptoms not ease within a week or so, contact your doctor as you may need prescription medication.


When a viral respiratory illness is not attended to or lingers longer than usual, it may lead to a sinus infection or bacterial bronchitis. This means that bacteria have caused irritation to the main airways of the lungs and prescribed medication from your doctor is required.


In conclusion, whether or not you’ll be fighting a battle against colds or flu, prevention is better than cure. “By educating yourself with the effective treatment options and practicing responsible self-care, one can equip yourself to know when to visit a doctor and when self-medication is sufficient.”