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Tis The Season For Coughs and Colds

Winter seems to be the season for so many in our community to be sick with coughs, colds, and flu.  Unless you live in a bubble, it is difficult to avoid and the culprit for many a day in bed.

Viruses spread through tiny droplets in the air that are released when a sick person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose. … People who have the flu may pass it on to others 1 day before symptoms start and up to 5 to 7 days after getting sick, so they may spread the flu before they even know they are sick.

Having a flu vaccination is not a guarantee of avoiding a cold or flu, or a specific strain of flu, and living in a bubble isn’t an option.  So what’s the difference between them all?

Coughs

A cough is a common symptom which is commonly relating to a cold. Usually, a cough is self-limiting and not serious. If the person is feeding, drinking, eating and breathing normally and there’s no wheezing, a cough isn’t usually anything to worry about.

If the person has a bad cough that won’t go away, they need to see their doctor. Causes of more serious coughs can include;

  • croup (in young children under 5 years) whilst not serious, similar to a cold
  • whooping cough
  • asthma
  • pneumonia
  • swallowing a foreign object e.g. peanut.

Signs of a more serious cause of coughs can include;

  • high temperature
  • persistent or an unusual cough
  • breathlessness at rest
  • breathlessness after heavy exercise
  • occurs at night
  • listless or overly tired
  • the person experiences some level of discomfort when coughing

If the person has any of these symptoms take them to the doctor immediately or for a more serious symptom, just call an ambulance. Although it’s upsetting to hear the person cough, coughing helps clear away phlegm from the chest or mucus from the back of the throat.

You could try soothing the tickling throat with hot drinks (honey and lemon mixture) or with medicated lollies.  Even burning eucalyptus oil can often help.

Sore throats

Sore throats are often caused by viral illnesses such as colds or flu. The person’s throat may be dry and sore for a day or two before a cold starts, creating a niggling saw throat. Most sore throats clear up on their own after a few days. If the person has a sore throat for more than 4 days, has a high temperature and is generally unwell, or is unable to swallow fluids or saliva, they need to see a doctor.

Colds

It is normal for people to have several colds per year. This is because there are hundreds of different cold viruses and young children especially have no immunity to any of them as they’ve never had them before. Gradually they build up immunity and get fewer colds as they grow older.

Most colds get better in 5 to 7 days. Here are a few tried and tested ways to ease the symptoms in the person:

  • Increase the amount of fluid the person normally drinks.
  • Saline nose drops can help loosen dried nasal secretions and relieve a stuffy nose.
  • If the person has a fever, pain or discomfort, paracetamol or ibuprofen can help.
  • Encourage the whole family to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading.

Ear infections

Ear infections are common in babies and small children. They often follow a cold and sometimes cause a temperature. A child may pull or rub at an ear, but babies can’t always tell where pain is coming from and may just cry and seem generally miserable.

If the person has an earache but is otherwise well, give them some paracetamol or ibuprofen for 12-24 hours. Don’t put any oil (from the old wives remedies), eardrops or cotton buds into the person’s ear unless your doctor advises you to do so. Most ear infections are caused by viruses, which can’t be treated with antibiotics. They will just get better by themselves.

After an ear infection, the person may have a problem hearing for 2 to 6 weeks. If the problem lasts for any longer than this, see your doctor for advice.

Avoiding colds and flu

Due to our social lifestyle, we need to be vigilant especially during the winter months when the colds and flu are more prevalent. Here’s a few ways to avoid being sick:

  • wash your hands with a sanitizer or soap regularly throughout the day
  • Computer keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, pens that are given to you when you sign for a credit card purchase are all carriers of germs. Either wash your hands or carry a sanitizer with you to avoid spreading them from person to person.
  • Exercise will strengthen your immunity – just 30 minutes a day. Even if you have a mild cold or flu, just walking will assist you. If your cold or flu is severe, you have a high temperature, then cease exercising for a while to help your body to recover.
  • Echinacea and Goldenseal from health food store can help boost the immune system and fight off microbes, as well as Vitamin C (either pill form or eating citrus fruits, berries, kale and capsicum).
  • gargle salty water to combat bacteria

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