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Beware of common cold this winter

health talk:with Dr Johannes Marisa

Winter has come and this is the time when we witness so many respiratory infections especially among children. Covid-19 has, however, overshadowed these other ailments and if we are not careful, we may witness a lot of complications from simple respiratory diseases merely because of negligence, fear and ignorance.

This worrisome belief that everything respiratory is Covid-19 can lead us astray as clinicians or patients.

What is the common cold?

This is a viral infection of your nose and throat. It is mostly caused by Rhinoviruses. It is usually harmless although it may worsen in some patients.

Children less than six years of age are at greatest risk but most patients recover from common cold from seven days to 10 days.

Symptoms of the common cold usually appear one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus and may include the following:
lRunny or stuffy nose
lSore throat
lSlight body aches
lLow grade fever

The discharge from the nose may become thicker and yellow or green in colour as a common cold runs its course. Some of the above symptoms are exhibited in Covid-19 infection as well. Stay calm and consult your clinicians for assistance, especially if fever is greater than 38,5°C, if there is shortness of breath, if there is wheezing or severe sore throat. If you are doubting, get a Covid-19 screen.

Risk factors
The following factors can increase your chances of getting a cold:
Age: Children younger than six years are at greatest risk.
Immunosuppression: A weak immune system can precipitate a common cold attack. This can happen in HIV and Aids, diabetes mellitus and cancers.
Time of the year: Both children and adults are more susceptible to colds in autumn and winter although one can get a cold anytime.
Smoking: One is more likely to get a cold if you are exposed to cigarette smoke.
Exposure: If you are around many people, such as a school or in an aeroplane, you stand at higher risk of contracting viruses that cause common cold.

As winter approaches, we ought to prevent the common cold. There is no vaccine for the common cold, but common-sense precautions can be taken to slow the spread of the viruses. The majority of the precautions have to do with mere hygiene so let us be smart, hence the following measures:
Wash your hands: Clean your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. People should know the importance of hand washing. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based sanitisers.
Disinfect your stuff: Clean kitchen and bathroom countertops with disinfectants especially when someone in your family has a cold. Be careful about your children’s toys as these can be sources of infection.
Steer clear of colds: Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold.
Use tissues: Sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away then wash your hands carefully with soap and water. Teach your children to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow if they do not have tissues. That way they cover their mouth without using their hands.
Take care of yourself: Eat well, do exercises and have enough sleep and managing stresses might help keep colds at bay.

Most patients with common cold are diagnosed by their signs and symptoms. In the event that a bacterial infection is suspected, a chest X-ray can be done.

lFor the common cold, antibiotics are not required as colds are viral diseases.
lPainkillers: For a fever, sore throat and headache, painkillers like paracetamol and Ibuprofen are used
lDecongestant nasal sprays: Adults can make use of decongestant drops or sprays for up to five days. Prolonged use can cause rebound symptoms.
lUse saline nasal drops: To help relieve nasal congestion, especially in children, you can make use of these drops. These are sold over the counter.
lSoothing your throat: A salt-water gargle can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.
lDrink plenty of fluids: Water, juices and warm lemon water are good choices, which help a lot. Try to run away from caffeine and alcohol because they have the potential to dehydrate you.
lKeep your room warm: Avoid overheating it. If the air is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporiser can moisten the air and keep easy congestion and coughing.
lResting: If possible, stay home from work or school if you have a fever or a bad cough or if you feel drowsy after taking medications
Let us keep all these viruses away by observing good hygiene. Rhinoviruses, RSVs and coronaviruses need proper hygiene if we are to slow the them. Remain smart!

lDr Johannes Marisa is a medical practitioner who can be accessed on doctormarisa@gmail.com or WhatsApp 0772859391.

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