Fitness and health 14.8.2018 02:02 pm

SA outsmarts colds and flu – mostly without antibiotics

Picture: iStock

Picture: iStock

Compared to the northern hemisphere suffering from debilitating colds and flu during their winter, South Africans have mostly shrugged off the worst of the colds and flu with ease.

Cardiovascular medication supplier Pharma Dynamics has concluded that most South Africans managed to shrug off the worst of the colds and flu that hit this past winter.

According to their poll results, where 1 837 South Africans aged 18 and older were asked how they dealt with colds and flu, home remedies worked surprisingly well to keep the sniffles at bay.

Only 38% of respondents contracted a cold once, 32% got it twice, an unlucky 13% contracted a cold thrice, 8% had to spend most of their winter fighting off colds, and a lucky 9% escaped the grip of the dreaded winter cold completely.

Picture: iStock

However, this must be taken into context, as South Africa experienced a far milder cold and flu season than the northern hemisphere, who were plagued by H3N2, also known as Aussie Flu.

Pharma Dynamics antimicrobial product manager Annemarie Blackmore explained the difference in cold and flu strains this year when compared to last year.

“According to SA’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), most flu samples that tested positive this season have been identified as influenza A (H1N1), more commonly known as Swine flu. The H3N2 strain typically has a higher mortality rate than the milder H1N1, particularly among the young, elderly and those who have compromised immune systems. The H3N2 strain was more predominant in SA last year, but has only been detected in small numbers this time around.”

She does, however, explain South Africa had a rather nasty bout of more intense flu cases last year, but that this year’s flu cases poured in almost a month earlier. Despite this, the number of flu cases is still lower than last year.

Picture: iStock

But even though the cold and flu strains this year were less intense, it can be argued that the combination of over 200 viruses responsible for the common cold can cause an equally unpleasant level of discomfort.

South Africans are hardcore when it comes to preventing colds and flu. The survey found that 9% of people quarantined sick family and friends, 42% were ‘militant’ about washing their hands, and 41% say they covered their hands and mouths when coughing or sneezing. Even though standing in a banking queue with a bunch of sniffling, coughing patients seems to prove otherwise, households generally pull out all the stops in practising healthy habits to prevent contracting sickness.

Tips from WWI on how not to spread the flu. Image: Twitter/@WWIfromItaly

So, what do South Africans generally do when they feel a throat tingle? According to the survey, they took the following steps:

  • Talk to a pharmacist or GP
  • Down those immune-boosting supplements and vitamins
  • Increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Get generic, over-the-counter medication from the local pharmacy

Once the cold or flu has set in, South Africans swore by the following home remedies:

  • Sleep as much as you can
  • Take a hot bath or shower
  • Drink a cup of herbal tea, such as rooibos
  • Binge watch your favourite TV show or movie
  • Get some fresh air

Here are a few tips to build your cold and flu arsenal, courtesy of Blackmore, to help get through the spring sniffles:

  • Keep up hygiene practices – do not share cutlery, crockery, water bottles, lip balm, towels etc with sick people
  • Wipe down surfaces that make it easy to contract germs – keyboards and mouses, tablets and phones and door handles
  • Manage your stress – unmanaged stress can diminish immune function, so be sure to try meditation, running or breathing techniques to keep stress levels down

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