Andrew Edwards, Executive Principal Officer of Liberty Medical Scheme, shares five easy ways to protect yourself against the impact of the flu virus.
1. Know the difference between flu and a common cold
Many people confuse the flu virus and a cold because cold symptoms often mimic flu symptoms, such as a runny nose and a sore throat. But it’s having a high temperature or fever that distinguishes the flu from an ordinary cold.
Other common flu symptoms include:
- A cough
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body and muscle aches
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
Treating the flu virus:
If you do get the flu, you can treat it with over-the-counter medicine, such as pain killers and nasal decongestants. Rest as much as possible and if complications develop, be sure to see a medical practitioner as soon as possible.
2. Are you at a higher risk?
Some people are more vulnerable to flu-related complications that can result in hospitalisation. You may be considered higher risk if you have:
- Chronic heart disease or chronic congestive heart failure
- Chronic lung disease
- Serious kidney or liver disease
- A compromised immune system from chemotherapy, steroid treatment or HIV/AIDS
Some serious flu-related complications include:
- Sinus infections
- Ear infections
3. Consider having a flu jab
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your family from a bad bout of flu or any related complications, is to get a flu jab — or flu vaccine.
“This simple injection can help protect anyone over six months against the potentially dangerous complications of flu. The flu jab causes antibodies to develop in the body for about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection from the viruses that are in the vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research shows will be the most common during the colder season,” says Edwards.
“Remember,” he adds, “the earlier in the flu season you get the jab, the better protection against getting flu you will have, as there is a two-week waiting period while the antibodies develop in your body.”
4. Stop the flu virus in its tracks
Stop the spread of germs by washing your hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub, taking care to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Practice good health habits by getting plenty of sleep and exercise, managing your stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthy food. It also helps if you cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the bin after you use it.
To prevent spreading the virus to others you may come into contact with, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
5. Limit the effects of flu on your pocket
If you get the flu, use generic medicines wherever possible and visit your GP before seeing a specialist, only if necessary. Because flu is a virus, you will only be able to treat the symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose or fever.