Why you need to be more cautious during winter season? What is the virus that most likely spreads around?
The winter sees an increase in many viruses — more particularly, the influenza (flu) virus. The flu is primarily a respiratory disease. Its common symptoms are fever and/or chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose and/or muscle aches.
Aside from flu viruses, several other respiratory viruses also circulate during winter and can cause a similar illness. These respiratory viruses include rhinovirus (one cause of the “common cold”) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which commonly affects young children and those aged 65 years and older and may cause serious illness. (1)
Flu facts to keep in mind
How do you know if it is the flu or just a cold?
Colds rarely cause a fever or headaches. The flu almost never causes an upset stomach. And stomach symptoms are more likely to be gastroenteritis.(2)
A nasal swab test that tests for Influenza A and B strain usually confirms the diagnosis of flu.
Anyone can get the flu and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children. Flu complications include pneumonia, ear infections and sinus infections.(3)
How does it spread?
Flu viruses spread mainly through tiny droplets that occur when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. The viruses pass through the air and into your body through your nose or mouth. You can also be infected with the flu virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose, or possibly eyes.
People with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, but it is possible that people may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms occur. So keep your body healthy by eating these energy boosters to fight against flu.
If it has to do with the weather change, what can people do to avoid it?
Flu viruses circulate year-round, but in most countries, flu activity peaks in the winter months. Some People when returning from vacations brings flu viruses into the country at any time of the year. Increased humidity and air conditioning may also increase the risk of catching flu.
How to prevent the flu virus
- Get a flu vaccination each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.
- Get the vaccine before the flu begins spreading, so plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible. However, it can still be beneficial even into January or later. The vaccine has a 70% to 80% chance of preventing flu.
- The flu vaccination is changed every year according to the changes in the structure of the flu virus.
Other preventive actions include
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes and wash your hands frequently (children must also be taught to do the same).
- Stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the flu to others.
- Avoid crowded areas.
- Use hand sanitizers.
- Support your immune system. Follow a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, get eight hours of sleep each night, and de-stress.
- If you feel unwell, consult your GP.
What could those who caught the virus do to get better quicker?
Most people with the flu recover on their own without medical care. People with mild cases of flu should stay home and avoid contact with others, except to get medical care.
If your doctor feels that you would benefit from antiviral medication to treat the infection and lessen symptoms, these work best if given within 48 hours of when symptoms start. The antivirals are important for people that fall into the high-risk groups listed above.
Antibiotics are only given when there is a secondary bacterial infection. Otherwise, medications to ease the symptoms (such as paracetamol, antihistamines and decongestants), steaming, fluids and rest are advised.