Rug Up Guys It’s Bear Flu Season

Hey there Guys,

Here in Melbourne we are just about to enter into a wonderful week of bear related festivities as part of Vic Bear’s Southern Hibearnation.

Scheduled at the start of winter, Hibearnation happens to coincide with the start of cold and flu season. This has lead to a phenomena knows as “bear flu”. Today I wanted to share a few tips and tricks that can help reduce the chance of developing colds as winter approaches us here in the southern hemisphere.

So what exactly is a cold?

The common cold is the most frequent acute illness found in the industrialised world. It’s caused by infection from a variety of different viruses and usually causes a mild self limited illness, with the most commons symptoms being:

  • cough and sneezing
  • blocked or runny nose
  • sore throat
  • mild fevers
  • headache and feelings of lethargy

It’s important to note that the common cold is very different to influenza, AKA “the flu”, where the symptoms are much more severe and include high fevers, muscle aches and pains, severe headache and lethargy. It’s very similar to the common cold but much worse. Infection with influenza can lead to additional illness such as pneumonia, bronchitis and other infections that can be life threatening to people who have health issues.

Both the common cold and the flu are easily spread via coughing, sneezing and contact with the virus via hands and surfaces people have sneezed or coughed on. Covering your mouth and nose with coughs and sneezes as well as regular hand washing are the keys to reducing transmission rate. Alcohol based rubs are a good alternative if you can’t wash your hands but soap and warm water is better if you can.

If you think you have a cold or the flu it’s important to stay at home. Studies show that flu transmission rate is about 25% when people are socializing with others infected with the virus. Remember that people living with impaired immune systems are a high risk of severe complications from the flu so please be thoughtful and think of others. Cold and flu are easiest to spread in the first three days of the illness, with virus shedding extremely reduced after five to seven days.

What are the best ways to avoid getting colds and flu?

The best way to avoid the seasonal flu is to get a flu shot. Every year there is a new vaccine created from the previous season’s flu types. The flu vaccine is highly recommended for all people living with chronic illness, people who live with or care for people with chronic illness and finally people who work in industries where there is a lot of people contact.  You can read more about the flu vaccine in the article: Should You Consider Getting The Flu Vaccine?

While the flu vaccine can help prevent the most common deadly strains of the flu it does not offer protection against the viruses causing the common cold.

Review of the current data shows that regular vitamin C can help reduce the risk of developing colds. This can be taken as vitamin tablets, however I suggest aiming to increase your fruit intake as you get the added benefits of anti-oxidants, fiber and vitamins you will miss if you just take tablets. Currently there is no strong evidence that herbal preparations, homeopathic drops, probiotics or face masks can help reduce the risk of colds or flu.

As a recap here are some top tips provided by the Center of Disease Control:

Every Day Habits To Prevent The Spread Of Germs

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

Guys if you develop a cold or flu, in most cases it’s a mild illness that can be treated with rest, fluids, and preparations like paracetamol or cold and flu tablets to relieve discomfort. If you are feeling very unwell, have concerns or you do not appear to be getting better be sure to see a doctor to ensure there is nothing else going on.

Yours in good health, and have a wonderful Southern Hibearnation.

Dr George

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