- Influenza (flu) is more potent than the common cold which is usually restricted to the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat). Flu is much more likely to cause a strain on organs in the body, and can potentially result in hospitalisation and death (from secondary bacterial infection).
- Men with higher testosterone levels elicit weaker responses to the flu virus, whilst estrogen in women can reduce flu virus replication. It turns out women get more colds but men tend to get a more severe dose of the flu.
- Flu vaccines are only 40-50% effective, but are seen as safe and warranted for population health, especially for ‘at risk’ patients with chronic health issues. Its free for adults over 65, kids between 6 months and 5 years, expecting mums, and for anyone with a chronic health condition.
- Air travel increases the chance of colds and flu by up to 8 times.
What to do over winter:
- Get flu shot now. It’s free if you have a chronic condition, are pregnant, are indigenous, over 65 years old, or for kids between 6 months and 5 years. Typically lasts 3 months.
- Keep healthy. To reduce the frequency of colds and flu, ensure adequate rest, exercise and reduce stress – if you’re run down, Vitamin C may help reduce the severity of colds.
- Avoid airborne contamination. Wear a mask on public transport and in crowded areas where others are coughing. Disinfect hands and door handles often. On a plane, choose a window seat and use the air vents.
- Know when to get tested. Most colds can cause fever, sore throat, runny nose, cough and can be treated conservatively at home (fluids, paracetamol). But see your GP for nose and throat swabs to test for flu if you have ongoing fever and chills, muscle and joint aches, headaches, stomach pains, or shortness or breath.
- Augment your immune system. Zinc can boost your immune defence, whilst alcohol can depress it.
Patient information flyer: 20180604 Education – URTI v1 (1)