Recently, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) forecast that in some parts of the country, haze will be experienced and true to the forecast, many Nigerian towns are still experiencing harmattan haze.
Prior to the resumption of academic activities, the haze was prominent; some days after the resumption, there was a respite but suddenly the hazy weather resurfaced.
Haze is usually accompanied with dusts, which impedes visibility and apart from this, it also has health implications especially for children. It is not only children who are exposed and prone to catching this infection. Adults are also prone to catching it and this is due to the fact that our daily activity involves us going out of our homes and into the open.
Up to 1.5 million cases of colds and flu is reported in Nigeria annually. This piece is aimed at enlightenment on the causes of common colds/flu, steps to prevent, treatment and home remedy.
What is Flu (Common Colds Or Influenza)?
Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu is highly contagious and is normally spread by the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. Although unpleasant, flu is rarely life-threatening.
All the flu and cold such as common colds, including chest cold and head cold, and seasonal flu are caused by viruses.
Colds and flu always go away without medicine because they are caused by virus. It does not call for the use of any strong antibiotics as the body immune system would fight it.
Causes of Colds and the Flu:
It can be caused when a tiny dose of a virus is inhaled into the nasal passages from droplets sneezed or coughed into the air or transmitted by contaminated fingers (hand to hand contact). It can also be due to a poorly functioning immune system. Colds can also be contacted by walking barefoot in the rain (rainy season). The virus then moves to the back of the nose, where it attaches itself to the adenoid area and begins to reproduce.
Symptoms/Signs of Colds and the Flu:
Symptoms of common colds include sore throat, runny nose, congestion and cough. The symptoms also include profound fatigue which may last up to two weeks or more depending on the individual immune system. Flu symptoms are similar, but include mild fever, headache and muscle soreness and there may be mild diarrhea, especially in young children. Not everyone with the flu will run a fever.
The body’s immune system has to be up and running in order for the human body to be able to resist all types of illnesses. There are some acts we indulge in which may run contrary to the optimum functioning of the immune system. These acts include, eating too much sugar and too many grains, ineffectively managing emotional stresses in your daily life, not getting enough rest, lack of Vitamin D in the body.
Steps To Prevent Colds and the Flu:
- Getting enough sleep and eating well helps prevent colds. Sleep has a lot of advantage to the body as it helps the body to grow and ensures replacement of worn out tissues and cells.
- Take more of fruit as source of vitamin C -Fruit like oranges, tomatoes, and others – would help especially in this season because fruits are in abundance.
III. We should make hand washing a habit. Washing hands every time especially before touching your face, nose, mouth, or anything you put into your mouth is also a good step to prevention.
- IV. Unlike what many people believe, colds do not come from getting cold or wet though getting very cold, wet, or tired can make a cold worse. But you could contact cold from others who have the infection and sneeze the virus into the air.
In order to avoid spreading the virus to others, the sick person should eat and sleep separately and take special care to keep far away from little children and infant babies. The infected persons should cover their noses and mouths when they cough or sneeze, and wash their hands often if possible. To prevent colds from leading to ear aches, try not to blow your nose just wipe it. Steps should be taken to teach the children not to blow their nose but wipe it.
Treatment for Colds and the Flu:
Although, flu vaccines can prevent certain strains, there is no much you can do after you get sick. Take some drugs like analgesics within 48 hours after to ease the symptoms. Drink lots of fluids. No special diet is needed. However, fruit juices, especially orange juice or lemonade, are helpful. Get plenty of rest. Go to the nearest health facility or registered pharmacy to get painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve all the pains, antihistamines and decongestants to help with congestion.
Antibiotics don’t treat the flu. They only work against bacteria, as the flu is caused by a virus.
At home, there are assorted remedies which can be applied to get a relief. Care should be taken to note that cure is not instant. Since it is a viral infection, it will run its course but treatment would bring relief and curtail rate of spread of the virus (which is harmless). At home, the following can be used:
Garlic– A strong natural antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial. Garlic can tackle almost any illness. If you are sick enough, you won’t even notice the taste.
Hydrogen Peroxide– At the first sign of cold, flu, sinus infection, or ear infection, put a dropper full of hydrogen peroxide into each ear. Have the person lie still with the hydrogen peroxide in the ear until it stops bubbling. Do this on both sides. This is especially effective for children. Repeat every few hours until the infection is gone.
Hot Liquids– This one is very popular among Nigerians. The heat helps boost immune system and a variety of herbs can help with infection.
Face Steam– Boil water in a kettle. Remove from heat pour it inside a big bowl, add menthol like Robb. Cover for 5 minutes with a lid, and then remove lid and put face directly over pot with towel covering your head to hold in the heat. Breathe in the steam as long as you can, aim for 15 minutes. This will help loosen congestion and kill viruses and bacteria in the lungs, bronchials or sinuses. Alternately, vinegar can also be poured into the steam.
Remove White Foods– At the first sign of illness, completely remove all white foods from the diet. This includes grains, sugars, milk, cheese, dairy, sweeteners, soda, etc. These foods suppress immune function and slow the body’s healing ability. When you are ill, you don’t actually need to eat a lot of food, as the body needs to focus more on healing than digestion.
Hydrate and Rest– If the body is running a fever (which means it is fighting the illness) the best support you can give is to stay well hydrated on water and herbal teas and to rest enough. The body needs several extra hours of rest a day when ill, and often several extra glasses of water also. If you are running a fever, it is easier to get dehydrated, so drink enough water.
Complications of Colds and the Flu:
Hearing loss and Pneumonia are some of the negative effects of common colds on the body.
Sinusitis is an infection of the small air-filled cavities inside the cheekbones and forehead. It develops in up to 1 in every 50 adults and older children who have a cold.
A chest infection such as bronchitis and pneumonia can occur after a cold, as your immune system is temporarily weakened.