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Winter Lurgies and Self Reliance

Winter lurgies are more likely to make us sick, because we’re huddled together indoors with the windows shut, to breathe in moisture from others’ breathing and spread infections. There is also evidence that viruses, such as the influenza virus, survive better in cold, dry weather and are therefore better able to invade our bodies.

There are more infections in the winter, including flu and norovirus.

Our immunity levels in winter may be reduced as a result of several factors. Higher energy needs, changes in sleep, changes in activity levels and reduced light which leads to lower vitamin D levels – they all play a part.

Common Infections

The commonest winter infections are viral. ‘Colds‘ from a variety of viruses, including adenoviruses, rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus and influenza, cause unpleasant symptoms, but usually can be managed at home. Similarly, viral ear infections, chest infections, sinusitis and cold sores are more common in winter. You can either try to prevent them or self-medicate. Bacterial infections can also occur, but are much less likely.

At first, it can be hard to distinguish some infections, such as flu, from more serious bacterial infections, such as pneumonia. A blocked or runny nose, earache, sore throat, cough, headache, tiredness and fever are more likely to be viral, but you should see your GP if it isn’t settling, or it you have chest pains or difficulty in breathing.

Winter Lurgies like Norovirus

Known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus is the commonest gut infection. It’s highly contagious, causing vomiting and diarrhoea, but it is usually mild and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. Strict hygiene, with hand-washing before eating and after using the toilet, is vital to prevent infection and re-infection. You will be infectious while you have symptoms. Children also get mild vomiting or diarrhoea with rotavirus and odenovirus infections.

How to Prevent Winter Lurgies

A healthy diet, plenty of sleep, not smoking or drinking heavily will all help to keep your immunity strong. Avoid anyone with any acute infection as they could be contagious.

Vaccination is important, specifically the annual flu jab. Also, if you have chronic diseases, such as diabetes or asthma, you should make sure you have had the pneumococcol vaccination.

The flu jab is available with your local GP and pharmacies particularly for the elderly and adults with chronic medical conditions. You can also pay for one at most pharmacies.

Ways to Self-Manage Winter Lurgies

  • Rest and stay away from people to avoid infecting them. Drink plenty of clear fluids, eat small amounts of light food, that won’t stress the digestive system and take your usual medication.
  • Inhalations with eucalyptus oil loosens thick mucus and eases symptoms.
  • A homemade honey and lemon mix will help sore throats and coughs.
  • Your pharmacist can advise about over-the-counter medicines. Paracetamol or ibuprofen reduce fever, ease pain and chest rubs help breathing.
  • See your GP if you or your child is increasingly drowsy, has breathing difficulties or severe pain. Antibiotics are only used if secondary bacterial infection is diagnosed.

E368 – Winter Lurgies and Self Reliance –

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