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Health tips for staying well during cold and flu season

1 August 2019

Cold and flu season is well and truly upon us. Everyone seems to have a recipe from their grandma, or a secret tip, to help avoid getting sick. So, we decided to ask an expert to sort through the facts and myths around avoiding flus and colds this sickness season.

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Dr Preeya Alexander, a general practitioner in Richmond, Victoria, says the first thing to know is that the cold and the influenza are two very different illnesses.

“Both illnesses are caused by viral infection – however, a cold tends to be a milder illness with coughing, sneezing and sore throat,” Preeya said. 

 “A cold tends to run its course over the period of a week. Influenza, however, tends to be much more serious with high fevers, muscle aches, reduced appetite, and lethargy. Pneumonia a potential complication of the flu. 

“It can take people 10 to 14 days to recover from influenza.”

Preeya’s top tips for staying well this cold and flu season

  • Support your immune system with the simple stuff. Aim for a good diet high in fruit and vegetables. Also aim for regular exercise and plenty of hydration. 
  • Try to manage stress as it crops up. Stress can have a negative effect on the immune system. You might notice when you’re stressed and run down you’re more likely to get sick!
  • Hand hygiene is crucial. If you have access to hand sanitiser, use it, particularly before touching your face. When you’re around sick people who are coughing and sneezing there are likely to be tiny, respiratory droplets on surfaces like taps and door handles. Contact with these droplets is how you get sick, so hand washing is key!  
  • If you are sick, try to always cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze to protect those around you.
  • Consider a flu vaccine. I'm a big advocate for this with the rest of the medical community. It’s your best defence against influenza. I've had the vaccination and so has my entire family, including my three-year-old daughter. A common myth is that the flu vaccine gives you the flu. The flu vaccine is not live and so it cannot infect you with the flu virus. Some patients do get a mild response post the vaccination (with some muscle aches for instance). However, this is temporary and tends to settle after a day or two. 

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