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5 things that could make your cold or flu symptoms worse

lu season, which typically falls between April and September in South Africa each year, is likely to coincide or overlap with the anticipated third wave of Covid-19.

“The flu shot is not effective against Covid-19, but will help protect against the flu which can weaken the immune system and lower your defence against Covid-19 infection. It is especially important for those who have a co-morbidity or chronic condition, such as asthma,” says Clicks pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman.

“It is also an important conservation measure for reducing the burden on healthcare resources during the pandemic.”

To date, Covid-19 has resulted in over 50 000 deaths in South Africa. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, seasonal flu kills between 100 000 and 600 000 people globally, with around 11 500 deaths in South Africa alone. About 50% of those deaths are among the elderly, and about 30% in HIV-infected people.

In 2020, however, South Africa reported historically low rates of flu infection. Scientists believe this was a result of lockdown restrictions, as well as social distancing and hygiene measures – all of which significantly slowed the usual infection pattern.

Unfortunately, even with preventive measures, you can still get the flu. Overcoming it takes time as your body rids itself of the virus. It usually takes anywhere from three to seven days to recover. However, you may still continue to feel tired and have a cough for up to two weeks.


There are many things you could do during this time that could worsen the symptoms.

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Abdurahman gives us five things that can worsen your cold or flu symptoms and how to avoid them:

1. Do not continue with exercise or intensive work. This will worsen your illness and can even weaken the heart. Rest as much as possible during your flu.

2. Drink adequate fluids to stay hydrated. If you become dehydrated this can create problems for organs such as your kidneys.

3. Avoid sugary and alcoholic beverages, as well as caffeinated coffee. These can dehydrate you.

4. Do not use medicine unless it has been recommended to you by your pharmacist or doctor.There may be contra-indications that need to be evaluated for you. Your healthcare professional will do that.

5. Do not stop any chronic medication while you are ill especially not blood pressure or diabetes medicine. However you should check with your pharmacist for any possible drug interactions with your cold or flu medicines.

Influenza can present very similarly to Covid-19. Typical flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and, sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea. If you have a continued high fever or are at high risk of flu-related complications, see a doctor.


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