wellness B ack in February, conventional wisdom held that 2020 would follow closely in the footsteps of last year, which saw a massive uptick in colds and flus. Five months later, so much in the world has changed – and as we reach the halfway point of winter, Australia has managed to fare well on the illness index. The second half, however, could be an entirely different picture – and it all depends on how we act over the next couple of months. IS IT A COLD, THE FLU OR SOMETHING ELSE? In Australia, we use terms like cold, flu, lurgy and sniffles interchangeably as if they’re all describing the same illness, but we should separate these conditions. A common cold is caused by many different viruses, lasts about a week and is usually confined to the head, leading to a runny or congested nose, sore throat and a bit of a cough. Most patients with a cold are pretty functional during the illness. The flu is caused by one type of virus – influenza – and it’s a common cold on steroids. It generally lasts longer, has more severe symptoms and comes with more general body aches, pains and misery – meaning most sufferers can’t get out of bed for a week. Although the cold and flu are different illnesses, they’re transmitted the same way. Coughing, spluttering and sneezing sends out billows of tiny virus-laden droplets for us to breathe in or pick up from any surface they land on. While outbreaks can occur any time of the year, winter is the worst as more people come indoors and huddle up together to stay warm, allowing for efficient transmission. mid-winter WILL THERE BE A BIGGER OUTBREAK THIS YEAR? Your survival guide Although isolation and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused their own set of problems, they’ve had a positive impact on the number of cold and flu cases we’ve seen this year so far. Influenza screening has increased and testing rates are up by four to five times compared to recent years, which means we really know what’s going on – and it’s only good news. In 2019, we had a huge outbreak quite early in the flu season, one that ended up progressing to become one of the worst we’ve seen. This year, Aussies are feeling better. Statistics reveal there’s been a whopping 75 per cent reduction in people reporting flu-like symptoms, and there’s been a dramatic decrease in influenza If you want to avoid a second wave of the winter sniffles, take note of these expert tips from GP Dr Sam Hay 10 Body+Soul MHSE01Z01BS - V1
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