How to prevent getting a cold or flu this winter

It’s winter, which means that the flu season will be starting in the first week of June. Flu circulation tends to be seasonal and lasts about 12 weeks so it’s recommended to take precautions against infection or to get a flu shot. Bloom, together with Momentum Heatlh4Me, encourages preventative measures when it comes to treatable illnesses. Find out how you can prevent getting the common cold or flu this winter with these easy tips and precautions.

What is the difference between the common cold and flu?

Both the common cold and the flu are viral respiratory infections that are very contagious. The virus is spread by coming into contact with an infected person, just like COVID-19. A common cold tends to be far less severe than the flu. You can catch a cold at any time during the year and it will usually develop quite gradually, and make you feel a bit run down. A cold lasts about seven to ten days. The flu, in contrast, is more serious. It develops far quicker than a cold and lasts about two weeks, which means you need bed rest and convalescence. It can also cause life-threatening conditions, like pneumonia or bronchitis if left untreated.

Symptoms of a common cold include a:

  • Runny nose, nasal congestion or post-nasal drip
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in one’s muscles
  • Headaches

How to spot flu symptoms

Flu symptoms will vary in severity and type, but you may experience some of the following if you have the virus:

  • Fever
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain and body aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands

How to prevent colds and flu this winter

1. Wash your hands and be hygienic

The flu and cold virus are spread by coming in contact with the virus so get into the habit of washing your hands regularly with soap and water. Make sure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and try to avoid touching your face. If possible, carry a bottle of hand sanitiser as an extra precaution. Use a disinfectant cleaner to wipe down household surfaces like counters, doorknobs and light switches to avoid cross-contamination.

2. Keep your immune system in tip-top shape

Take care of your body. This means that you should be getting enough sleep (at least seven to nine hours each night) and watching your diet. Eat a balanced meal full of fresh fruit and vegetables and engage in a regular exercise activity that lasts about 20-30 minutes per session. Certain vitamins, like Vitamin C, A, D and Zinc are particularly effective in combating the flu virus so add these supplements to your diet during winter. Find a way to relieve stress and tension, like yoga or meditation, as this will also help fight inflammation and disease.

3. Get a winter flu shot with Momentum Health4Me

One of the most effective preventative measures is to get a flu vaccination. This will aid in strengthening your immune system and will protect you from the flu virus. The Momentum Health4Me Gold, Silver and Bronze plans all cover an annual influenza vaccination for each member on the plan at one of our partner pharmacies, like Dis-Chem, Clicks, MediRite and Pick n Pay Pharmacies that are located countrywide. Please be advised that some people should not get a flu vaccine. These groups of people include babies who are younger than six months old, people who already have a fever and those who are allergic to the flu vaccine or its components.

4. Avoid the crowds during flu season

The flu is easily spread in crowded, confined spaces, just like the COVID-19 virus. Be cautious of unnecessary travel or visitations and rather keep safe during the flu season. If you must venture out, make sure you are wearing a protective face mask to reduce the risk

Is there a cure for the flu or a cold?

No, there is no “cure” for the common cold or the flu but there are over the counter and prescriptive medications you can get to ease your discomfort. For instance, you could use a decongestant to alleviate a blocked nose or a generic painkiller to help with body aches.

4 Natural remedies to help combat the flu symptoms

If you already have the flu, you can try some of these natural home remedies:

1. Drink plenty of fluids

It’s important that you stay hydrated if you have the flu. This is due to the fact that you will probably have diarrhoea so you need to replenish your body’s lost liquid. In addition to water, you can also consume coconut water, herbal teas, fresh fruit juices, sports drinks, vegetable juices and broth.

2. Inhale steam for comfort 

Breathing in steam will provide relief to your nose, throat, sinuses and lungs. The warm water vapour will help dislodge mucous congestion and will relieve the swelling in your lungs. The steam may also soothe your chest if it’s feeling tight. Simply inhale the steam from a pot of water you can boil on the stove or heat up in the microwave.

3. Try some essential oils

There are many types of essential oils that are believed to protect the human body against certain viruses, fungus or bacteria. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to liquid hand soap. Other oils that are thought to assist as natural antibiotics and antivirals are cinnamon, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon and thyme. Use only as directed and never ingest an essential oil.

4. Watch your diet

It’s recommended to eat a bland diet if you have the flu. That means you should try chicken broth, boiled potatoes, crackers, rice, banans and cooked cereal, like oats. Avoid foods that might upset your stomach, like dairy, fried foods, salty foods, spicy foods, alcohol or caffeine.

Make healthy decisions

Bloom is committed to healthy living and good health. That’s we encourage our members to make smart lifestyle choices and use preventative measures when it comes to combating infections, like the common cold or the flu. Get an annual winter flu vaccine to stay safe this season. Make sure you’re covered for health insurance and get in touch with one of our expert consultants for a free health insurance quote and a personalised plan.

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You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.

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