By OGE OKAFOR
Though many parts of Nigeria are experiencing the August break, be rest assured that the cold season is still around. Most of us will have the chill this season with symptoms like head aches, temperature, nasal congestion etc.
Sometimes, you get this feeling that the cold is entering your bones. Colds and flu are caused by viruses. There are more than 200 common cold viruses and three types of flu viruses with many different strains, so they’re hard to avoid.
These viruses can spread through droplets that are coughed and sneezed out by an infected person.
The viruses can also be transferred via a person’s fingers if they touch surfaces such as door handles. The virus enters the body via the nose or eyes.
If you have infected droplets on your fingers and you touch your eyes or nose, the virus can enter your body.
The main symptoms of cold and flu are coughing, sneezing, blocked nose, sore throat, headache and a slight temperature.
Dr Gabriel Omonaiye provides the following advice for protecting yourself from the weather.
This entails keeping warm by wearing thick clothing and sweater and drinking warm tea or hot soup and not staying too long outdoors.
Aside from dressing for the weather, here’s how you can avoid being overwhelmed by the cold.
Dr Rupal Shah, a GP in South London says “Try to rest, eat well, avoid stress and keep hydrated. If you have a fever, you may need extra fluids. You could also take paracetamol to treat fever and pain or inhale steam with a decongestant in order to help clear a blocked nose.”
Pharmacists say cold and flu medicines are among their top sellers in the rainy season. Some of the remedies combine painkillers with decongestants, which can help to manage symptoms.
“Painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin can really help if you have a cold” says Angela Chalmers, a pharmacist. However, aspirin shouldn’t be given to children under 16 years of age. She adds that “decongestants help to reduce swelling inside your nose, so you can breathe more easily.”
In most cases, antibiotics (which are used to treat bacterial infections) aren’t necessary. “Colds and flu, and most coughs are caused by viruses, so antibiotics can’t help. Minor bacterial infections will also be fought off by natural immunity,” explains Shah
Children can be treated using some over-the-counter painkillers to ease discomfort and help bring down a fever. Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are available in liquid for children and can be given from the age of about three months. Always check with your doctor if you aren’t sure which treatments you can give your child.
There are some benefits particularly for children, in catching a few coughs and colds. “Children tend to get a lot of colds because the body takes time to build up immunity. Your body learns to fight-off a particular kind of virus every time you get an infection, which is why you get fewer colds as you get older, says Chalmers.
While most bugs will run their course without doing any real harm, Shah says there are certain cases when you or your child should see a GP. These include:
If you or your child have a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
If you have a very high temperature and feel ill, for example, if you have an unusually severe headache or abdominal pain.
If your child is vomiting but does not have diarrhoea or has a rash in addition to the fever.
If your child stops drinking and is unusually lethargic.
If your child’s fever doesn’t respond to paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Babies, as well as older and frailer people should get help if they’re unwell.
Always contact your GP, health practitioner if your child has other signs of illness as well as elevated temperature i.e your baby’s temperature is 38°C or higher ( if they’re under three months), your baby’s temperature is 39°C or higher ( if they’re six months).