The flu. We’ve all been there: your nose won’t stop running, you feel like you’ve swallowed sand paper and your whole body aches.
You may think of flu as part and parcel of working in close confines with others and living in a highly air-conditioned environment, but this doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways you can combat the flu by keeping yourself healthy and boosting your immune system.
Who’s at risk?
Dr Samina Ahmad, consultant in family medicine at Danat Al Emarat Hospital, explains that while flu, aka seasonal influenza, can be contracted year-round, the virus is most common in fall and winter, usually peaking between December and February.
Flu can affect anyone, but children under five years old – in particular those under two – and adults over 65 are most at risk, as well as pregnant women, people who are morbidly obese and those with a weak immune system caused by disease or medication.
People with medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, blood disorders, kidney disease and liver disorders are also more susceptible.
While symptoms may be similar to other types of viruses, people who have contracted flu often have a fever, cough and sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches and fatigue. Children may even have vomiting and diarrhoea.
How do I avoid it?
“The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season,” explains Dr Samina. “It is approved for use in people six months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women.
“This is your best bet in keeping your child flu-free. In healthy kids, the flu shot is up to 90 percent effective.”
Hygiene also plays an important factor is staying flu-free. Hand washing prevents the spread of germs, but be sure to wash your hands properly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze, or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if water isn’t available.
Avoid getting too close to others who are sick, and if you’re the one who’s poorly then cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – and throw your tissue away after use.
Regularly clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces such as phones, remote controls and keyboards.
Most importantly, stay healthy: “The usual good health practices still apply during cold and flu season,” Dr Samina explains. “Good nutrition, moderate exercise and adequate rest help optimise the immune system.”
With children, be sure they are eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, milk and water, and that they take part in at least one hour of physical activity most days of the week. Also ensure they are getting plenty of sleep – at least ten hours for school-age children and 12 hours for toddlers.
Remember that flu is highly contagious and you can infect others before you even know you are sick, so it’s best to stay home from work, school and social events to avoid spreading the virus and to help you recover quicker.
If you’re struggling to fight the flu, it may be time to see a doctor. In children, symptoms including bluish skin, difficulty breathing, fever with a rash and fewer wet diapers are all warning signs.
Adults should seek medical attention if they experience shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion.
Blow your nose the right way
Blowing your nose often when you have a cold is a good thing to get mucus out, but blowing too hard can push phlegm, and the germs it carries, into the tubes of the ears, causing ear problems. Blow one nostril at a time by closing the other with a finger and blowing gently into a tissue.
Rinse your nose with saline
A salt-water rinse for the nose is an effective way to ease nasal congestion and also helps clear out viruses and bacteria from the nose.
Rest and stay warm
Fighting a cold or flu needs your energy; resting and staying warm helps the body’s immune system do its work.
Gargle salt water
A salt-water gargle can help ease a sore throat. Mix up a solution with a teaspoon of salt dissolved into a pint of previously boiled water that’s been allowed to cool.
Drink warm beverages
Having warming drinks helps relieve stuffiness and helps soothe the nose and throat. Some cold and flu remedies are made with boiled water, but a nice cup of tea may also make you feel better.
Menthol products have a strong smell that can cut through blocked noses. A small dab of cream or gel under the nose can help open up blocked nasal passages and can sooth skin under the nose that may have become tender from a lot of nose blowing.
To find out more, contact: 02 614 9999, danatalemarat.ae