Take flu more seriously
If you experience breathing difficulties, chest pain or you are coughing blood, go straight to the doctor If you haven’t had a bout of flu yet, consider yourself one of the lucky few. South Africa is slap bang in the middle of flu season, which starts in May and ends in August.
While proper viral influenza is often considered a minor ailment that will go away on its own, Graham Anderson, chief executive of medical aid provider Profmed, says it deserves to be taken more seriously.
“The truth is that the flu is actually a relentless and possibly life-threatening disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide every year,” he says.
The World Health Organisation puts the annual global death rate from influenza as high as up to 500 000 people. They mostly die from complications caused by a lack of proper treatment and the patients’ failure to give the body a chance to recover.
Anderson says that, when it comes to the flu, protection is better than cure, and South Africans can protect themselves and others by avoiding contact with sick people and staying at home when they’re ill.
“Washing your hands often will help protect you from bacteria. If soap and water are not available, use a waterless hand sanitiser,” he says. “Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at work or home, especially when someone has the sniffles, and get plenty of sleep while managing your stress and drinking plenty of fluids.”
But flu is not the only winter ailment – chest infections, which include bronchitis and pneumonia, are up there too.
Dr Neville Wellington, managing practitioner at Medicross in Kenilworth, says: “Different strains of pneumonia can have different levels of impact on a person’s health, and while it is thought of as a treatable illness, there are some serious cases that are fatal.”
Pneumonia symptoms include fever, coughing, chest pain and difficulty breathing.
“Smokers are at increased risk of developing pneumonia and it may take them longer to successfully overcome this serious infection. This is another good reason for smokers to seek help to quit,” Wellington adds.