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Fighting the Flu

Fighting the Flu

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Winter is upon us and ‘tis the season to be sneezing! Winter colds and flu bring on days of miserable symptoms, with sore throat, coughing and congestion, and they are also a leading cause of lost work and school days. What does weather have to do with it? The risk of getting sick during the winter months is greater, not because of the cold weather, but because we spend more time indoors, closer together and the low humidity during the winter months makes it easier for viruses to thrive. Is it a cold or flu? Colds and flu are both caused by viruses. Colds are typically caused by rhinoviruses and the influenza virus causes the flu. While some of the symptoms are similar, such as aching, sore throat and congestion, here is where they differ: the flu causes a sudden onset of severe aching, pain, headache and high fever (39-40°). Colds develop more slowly, symptoms are milder and they don’t usually cause fever. Who is at greatest risk of getting sick? Children get the most infections, typically nine to 12 bouts a year. The reason for this is that they have poor hand-washing practices; more hand-mouth contact and their immune systems are still developing – they haven’t developed resistance to viruses. Other groups at greater risk of getting sick include the elderly and those with a weakened immune system due to chronic diseases such as diabetes or autoimmune disease, or taking medications that hamper immunity. Our immune system is a complex network of cells, glands and tissues that is continuously at work to fight off potential invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Many factors can hamper immune function such as stress, smoking, and drinking high amounts of alcohol. Steering clear of these lifestyle habits will put your immune system in a better position to fight off potential bugs. So what can you do to stay healthy this season? Be prepared. There are a number of lifestyle strategies, including foods, supplements and other measures that you can take to bolster your defenses and cut your risk of getting sick this season. Practice good hand hygiene. Cold and flu viruses are highly contagious and spread by close contact, for example if you are next to someone who has a virus and they cough or sneeze you may inhale those virus droplets and develop an infection. Viruses can also be spread by hand-to-hand contact. For example, touching an object that has been contaminated with a virus such as a phone, doorknob or keyboard and then rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water can not only protect you, but if you are sick it also helps to prevent the spread to others. Get adequate sleep. During sleep our body recovers and regenerates and produces many important compounds for the health of our immune system. Exercise regularly....

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