Take flu more seriously

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

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.

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