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How to stay healthy this winter

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Dr. Nikki Stamp2 May 2022|2 min read

Cold and flu season is nearly upon us and Australians are bracing for the possibility of a particularly bad cold and flu season. Hopefully, all of our preparations to stay healthy as the temperatures drop will mean that we don’t see the worst-case scenario.

Over the last two years of the pandemic, we’ve all learnt some new habits that can help keep respiratory infections, like colds and flu, at bay. The pandemic has certainly taught us that we can take simple measures that can help reduce the spread of these viruses.

Hand-washing and hand hygiene

Viruses that cause colds and flu can spread in little droplets in the air, but our hands are another source of spread. If we touch our face or cover our mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, little droplets of fluid containing virus particles can live on our hands and spread to other people.  

Keeping your hands clean is a very simple way to prevent the spread of colds and flu. here are two main ways to do this. The first is by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. These are great because they’re portable and very quick. Dispense the product into your hands and rub together for at least 20 seconds until the product evaporates.

The second is to wash your hands with soap and water. You can do this if you haven’t got access to hand sanitiser or if your hands are visibly soiled. To wash your hands, wet your hands, apply the soap and rub all surfaces of your hands (back, front and between your fingers) for at least 20 seconds. Then completely dry your hands with a clean towel.

What about vaccines?

When it comes to the cold and flu season, you may like to speak to your health professional about vaccination options for you and your family. 

Why can’t we vaccinate against the common cold?

Given how many people get a cold every year, you’d think that this would be a priority. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. Although we call a cold one illness, it’s actually caused by over 200 different viruses, some can change every year. It’s not possible to vaccinate against that many viruses.

With more recent developments in vaccines, it’s possible that in the not too distant future, we may be able to protect against some of the more common viruses, so watch this space.

Staying home when you’re sick

Before the pandemic, many of us probably soldiered on at work or school with a cold or flu. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that we’re probably better off for our own recovery and to stop the spread of viruses to just bunker down for a few days. 

Since these viruses love spreading when we’re in close contact with one another, staying away from other people when you’re not well is a really simple and effective thing to do. This may mean a day or two off work or school, avoiding social gatherings and keeping some space between you and others when you’re out of the house. Although you can be infectious a few days before symptoms appear, you can still protect others by staying away when you’re actually unwell. 

While you’re not feeling well, listen to your body as to what you can do. If you’re up to it, feel free to do some work (might be a great time to respond to all those emails!). You can go back to work when you’ve had 24 hours without a fever (if you’ve had one) or once your symptoms have improved, which may take up to 4-5 days.

Being extra vigilant for people who are at higher risk

Most people will be absolutely fine. However, for colds and flu, some people are at higher risk of a more severe form of the illness than others.

For common colds, children, older adults and those who are immunocompromised may experience more severe symptoms. While the common cold doesn’t usually produce symptoms in your lungs or airways, in these groups it can lead to croup or bronchiolitis in kids, or bronchitis in adults. For those with asthma, a cold can precipitate an acute worsening of asthma.

Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board April 2022

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional.