Winterproof Yourself



The flu is the big bad wolf when it comes to winter. Because it’s a Virus the only way we can protect ourselves against it is to steer clear of it ,or inoculate against it. To catch the flu you need to inhale infected mucous or touch a contaminated surface. It then gets into your system by you touching your nose, mouth or eyes, easy access as most of us touch our faces at least 2000 times per day! Symptoms include fever, sweats, aches and pains headache, dry cough and sore throat. They can often last for over a week. Flu amounts to far more than a simple cold, and really renders you incapacitated. Vaccination protects against the flu, but it isn’t infallible. You need to practice good hand hygiene and ensure your immune system is primed for the winter to fend off flu. If you are in an at-risk group e.g. Diabetic, Asthmatic or over 65 see, your GP for the jab. Pregnant women are also at particular risk. But really anyone who is susceptible should discuss the merits of getting the shot with their GP. Flu can’t be treated with antibiotics but they are sometimes needed for the complications of flu like a chest infection. Anti-Viral drugs are sometimes used to shorten the symptoms of flu and prevent any complications, but again only in extreme cases. They don’t cure the flu, your immune system has to do that so make sure it’s winter proofed!


Most people suffer from 3-4 colds per year. As there are hundreds of viruses out there to catch, we tend to find Rhinoviruses are the winners when it comes to ruining the winter. They cook best at 33 degrees C, which is the ambient temperature up the nose, so no wonder, they prosper! The fact we all huddle in doors in the winter makes them spread like wildfire. Most research suggests that you can’t catch a cold from getting cold, although there has been one study which suggests it may be possible. So stay warm and run a mile from anyone who looks like they are full of cold, as even an unsuspecting sneeze in your direction could pass it on. Treat sneezes and sniffles with respect by resting, rehydrating and maintaining a healthy calorie intake. Paracetamol works well for fever aches and pains, and just in case you are confused, antibiotics are a waste of time so don’t trouble the doctor by asking them, they will only say no. You have to ride the storm!


The Noro Virus is the most common vomiting bug to affect people in the UK in winter. It makes you feel sick and experience forceful vomiting, and watery diarrhoea. You may also have fever, feel weak, suffer aches and pains, and tummy cramp. There is no cure, and dehydration is the biggest consequences if you come down with this, so it’s important to get a lot of fluid on board. When you have diarrhoea or vomiting, you lose lots of water, but also lots of salts and sugar from your system. Ideally you need to replace like with like, not just water. You can buy rehydration sachets over the counter at pharmacies or alternatively if you want to do some DIY, get some full fat lemonade, boil it to take the fizz out of it and sip it. It’s a good source of liquid and also the much needed sugar and salts that are lost with each vomit or bout of loose motions. Don’t bung yourself up with diarrhea tablets, “its better out than in” is what we say in the trade! You can however get something from the pharmacy to prevent the sickness cycle. Avoid tea and coffee as they are dehydrating, and try and keep the diet bland, sticking to dry bread or crackers. Avoid fruit, spicy food and dairy produce as all of these can make you feel worse in the initial stages. Your symptoms generally start a few days after you come in contact with the bug bearer and last for about 48-72 hours. To prevent spreading this virus wash your hands, sterilise hard surfaces in kitchens bathrooms etc. and don’t prepare food for others until you are symptoms free for 48 hours. Bung any soiled bed linen in the wash a.s.a.p. and wash it at 60. Flush away any diarrhoea or vomit immediately, clean with detergent and then bleach the bathroom. General advice is to stay off work for 48 hours after your symptoms have passed to prevent the spread to others.


RSV is a virus called Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a bug that causes coughs, and colds predominantly in kids. When a child comes down with a dose of Croup, RSV is usually in the dock. It can be passed through mucous, so one child sneezing over another or a contaminated toy at playgroup does the trick. It can hang out on a hard surface for at last 4-7 hours, so it could be potentially infectious for a whole play date! Kiddies chest walls are not as rigid as grown-ups, so when this virus strikes young children and babies they struggle to cough up the mucous it causes in their chest. This can result in in the scary barking cough that is known as crop, classically striking at night. It spreads like wildfire and so if one child comes back home with it, it’s best to separate them from their siblings if possible. The under 2s are most susceptible to this virus, as it is the commonest cause of croup and hospitalisations for respiratory problems in children in the UK. By the time they are 2 years old, 80% of children have had a bout of this virus, most thankfully without any long-term ill effects. Be watchful over the under1s, children with chesty coughs and those who were born prematurely or suffer from asthma, these are often the worst affected. Annoyingly despite it being so common, you can’t vaccinate or treat RSV.


How many times did our mums tell us we would catch pneumonia by going out with wet hair? Thankfully I still do and haven’t caught it yet. But it’s not joking matter! Pneumonia occurs when there is swelling in one or both of your lungs, usually caused by infection. It stands to reason if the lung is swollen due to infection you won’t breathe well, you may bring up gunk, you will have a high fever and a cough, and you definitely won’t feel well. Pneumonia is usually caused by an infection with a germ called Streptococcus Pneumonia, but it can also be cause by other bacteria and viruses. Protecting oneself against the Pneumococcal bacteria can prevent it. All babies and adults over 65 are now offered this vaccine. Stopping smoking and not consuming excess alcohol can also help prevent it. Most importantly practicing good hand hygiene can prevent the spread. It is imperative when it comes to pneumonia to not only catch the cough or the sneeze but also bin the tissue ASAP. Leave it up your sleeve or in your hand bag and it becomes a breeding ground for bugs! Most pneumonia responds to antibiotics if it’s due to a bacteria, but it can be very severe in babies, those with diabetes and the elderly, so diagnosis should not be delayed and anyone who is eligible to have the vaccination should do so, it could prove lifesaving.