Survey finds SA is ill-prepared for colds and flu season

Survey finds SA is ill-prepared for colds and flu season

Many medium-sized companies in South Africa lose up to 105 days a year due to staff calling in sick because of the common cold or flu.

Sick woman at work
Sick woman at work / iStock

South Africans are bracing themselves for chilly conditions over the next few months as winter brings with it much colder weather.

That's not the only thing winter will bring with it. Colds and flu season will be in full swing leaving scores of people with running noses, sore throats and headaches.

A Pharma Dynamics survey has found that many South Africans are ill-prepared for the health challenges that the winter typically brings.

ALSO READ: Five surprising ways to keep flu away

The colds and flu medicine supplier conducted the survey to find out how  “prepped” people are to fight colds and flu this winter. 

It found that 64% couldn’t be bothered to eat more healthily by increasing their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, 80% haven’t gone for the flu-jab, and 6 out of 10 don’t implement proper hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing.

Of the 1,800 South Africans that participated in the online poll, three quarters won’t be going to bed earlier to get in their 8-hours of rest and less than half are boosting their immunity with multivitamins and health tonics.

ALSO READ: How to reduce the risk of contracting swine flu

The company's antimicrobial manager, Annemarie Blackmore, says studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to catch a cold after being exposed to the virus, which can also delay their recovery.

“When we sleep, our bodies release proteins called cytokines which promote sleep and help fight infection. Too little sleep may decrease the production of both cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies, which the body needs especially when battling a cold. Washing hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds will also help to limit the distribution of colds and flu viruses that are mostly transmitted by our hands.”

Blackmore says one of the easiest ways to avoid getting sick is to keep your hands away from your face - something 85% of those who participated in the survey did not think was important.

“People usually catch colds when they rub their eyes or nose after their hands have been contaminated with the virus that they’ve picked up from other people or contaminated surfaces. If you are around a colleague or friend that is ill, ask them to cough into a tissue or their elbow to avoid the spreading of germs. Teach children the same practice.”

61% of those who responded indicated that they won’t be buying any medication in preparation for the colds and flu season in case of an emergency. 

Less than 4% will be cleaning humidifiers and checking whether other equipment, such as thermometers, are still in good working condition.

“While stockpiling medicine is never a good idea,” remarks Blackmore, “having a supply of pain and fever medication – for both adults and children, antihistamines, a nasal decongestant, expectorant, throat spray and an electrolyte mix are all winter essentials that should be stored in a safe place. It’s usually in the middle of the night that you need it most and when you’re feeling under the weather, the last thing you want to do is to venture out into the cold to get supplies from the pharmacy," says Blackmore.

She adds that it is also important to have an action plan if you live with children.

“It’s also a good idea to stock the pantry with enough food and the freezer with a few pre-cooked meals for when colds and flu symptoms strike. If you have young children, have an action-plan in place by lining up support ahead of time to ease the stress of having to secure babysitters at the last minute." 

ALSO READ: Keri's Wellness Wednesday: Wet sock therapy for colds and flu

Main image courtesy of iStock/947805434

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