5 ways to avoid flu in the summer

Published: May 19, 2016
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

Scorching heat brings with it an array of hitches — sunburn, skin rashes, dehydration and summer colds. Falling ill in the summertime seems to last longer, and often feels worse than experiencing the doldrums in winter. As compiled from licescience.com, Reader’s Digest and Women’s Health magazines, here are ways you can keep germs at bay and maintain optimal health this summer.

Summer colds can upset your stomach as well
as your head

Colds that strike you in the summertime are caused by a virus (enterovirus) that’s different from those to blame for winter colds (rhinovirus), says New York City-based internist Keri Peterson, adding that they can cause stomach upset in addition to respiratory symptoms like sneezing, congestion, and fever. These summer germs spread not only through respiratory droplets, but also through fecal matter. And to make things worse, summer colds often last longer and have a higher chance of recurring, according to Dr Bruce Hirsch, attending physician for infectious diseases at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY. “The summer cold is really kind of tricky,” Hirsch said, adding, “Probably because the viruses that cause it [can be] different than a winter cold. Something about it is awful and insidious.” Make sure to wash your hands, especially well after you use the bathroom.

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Avoid freezing cold air-conditioning

Moving between warm outdoors and air-conditioned inside spaces can make people more vulnerable to sickness in summer, according to Ronald Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff in Wales, in the Wall Street Journal. The chilling “lowers the defenses in the nose and throat by causing constriction of the blood vessels,” he said. “If a virus is already present, this reduces our immunity.” Another summer-specific factor that can up the odds for colds is constant exposure to re-circulated air, which can dry out the lining of the nostrils, giving an open port to viruses.

Exercise can leave you more vulnerable

Specialists say it’s okay to exercise with mild cold symptoms — the physical activity may even boost your immune system. That’s not true for the viruses that cause summer colds, shares Dr Hirsch. “Those who have been sedentary through the winter should gradually ease into physical activities because enterovirus is the only infection associated with strenuous exercise,” he says. “We go outdoors and exercise vigorously, maybe when we’re not in great shape. That’s when these enteroviruses like to show up.” So if you’re feeling under the weather this summer, maybe skip the gym until you recuperate.

The best remedy is time — unfortunately

As with your winter cold, you can treat some of the symptoms with medicine, but you won’t feel fully better until the virus clears your system. Until that happens, Dr Peterson recommends using lozenges or gargling with salt water for a sore throat; relieving stuffiness with a saline rinse or a decongestant; taking cough medication for coughing; and lowering temperature with a fever-reducer. On top of all that, it’s imperative you keep hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and avoid strenuous activity till you heal.

One clue it’s not allergies: aches

Because summer colds and flu can last for weeks, people frequently assume their prolonged symptoms are allergies instead of pesky viruses. Both conditions tend to cause post-nasal drip, a sore throat, headache and congestion, according to GroupHealth, a Seattle-based health care system; but allergies don’t cause fever or muscle aches. If you’re experiencing frequent body aches, there’s a chance you could be coming down with something. For another clue, look at your eyes, advises Dr Peterson. The eyes of people with allergies tend to be puffy and bloodshot, as opposed to those who have caught a summer bug.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2016.

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