Advice from doctors: how to prevent colds and what to do if you are ill

Advice from doctors: how to prevent colds and what to do if you are ill
How can you prevent colds, and what you should do if you find yourself ill? Should you get a flu vaccine? Should you work and move about if you have a cold? When should you call an ambulance? offers this medical advice on how to cope with the flu and colds.

Local weather conditions are changing very quickly, with air temperatures fluctuating above and below the freezing point, and intermittent snowfalls and rains. In these circumstances, people are much more vulnerable to colds and flu outbreaks. Typically, this happens when temperatures fluctuate between minus five and plus five degrees Celsius.

How to prevent colds

Doctors advise people to eat at least four to five times a day, consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables containing a lot of Vitamin C. You should also dress according to the weather and try to avoid getting too cold. It is very important to wear autumn or winter footwear, and women should avoid wearing boots or shoes with high heels. If your feet become wet, it is important to change into dry shoes as quickly as possible.

People should wear medical or gauze masks in crowded places, including on public transportation, and they should replace these masks every two-three hours. Stay away from riders with obvious cold symptoms, including red eyes, runny nose and constant sneezing. The optimal distance is over one metre.

Basic hygiene is essential. Wash your hands and nostrils as often as possible. To keep viruses out, don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth. Ventilate your flat or office regularly and mop your flat. Disinfect telephones, keys and other items that you use most often.

Physical fitness is a key to staying healthy. Although athletes can also catch a cold, they experience less severe symptoms and recover more quickly.

What to do if you already have a cold

If you have a cold, your body temperature goes up and you may start shivering and suffering from a runny nose, cough, headache and overall discomfort. In that case, you should stay home and in bed. Most importantly, you should contact a physician immediately because only he or she can prescribe adequate treatment. Drink plenty of vitamin-containing liquids (such as water with lemon or cranberry) until the doctor comes. In case of high fever (39–40 degrees Celsius) and respiratory deficiency, that is, if you are gasping for breath and if your blood pressure drops, call an ambulance right away.

Protect yourself from flu

Inoculations are the best flu-prevention measure. You should become inoculated two-three months before seasonal flu outbreaks, so that your body has enough time to generate immunity.

Otherwise, you should follow basic hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap, mopping your flat, rinsing your nose, ventilating your flat, humidifying the air regularly and wearing medical masks in crowded places. It’s important to avoid close contact with people who are showing flu-like symptoms, including cough, runny nose and others. You should also eat plenty of foods with Vitamin C and take virus suppressing medications.

Flu treatment

The main flu symptoms include fever, shivering, headache, aching joints and muscles, cough, sore throat and a stuffy nose. Self-treatment if you have the flu is not recommended, because this may lead to serious complications. You should request medical assistance whenever your body temperature reaches 38–39 degrees.

Most importantly, you should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid coffee, tea and caffeinated Cola drinks. Even if you have no appetite, eat some simple foods, such as white rice or chicken broth.

Dealing with hypothermia

A person staying out in the cold for a long time without moving is likely to get hypothermia or even frostbite. The risks increase dramatically if you are wearing wet or tight-fitting shoes, if you are not wearing a hat and scarf, and if you are hungry or tired. Cold injury/hypothermia is also facilitated by vascular disorders, neuritis attacks and infectious diseases.

Inebriated people are most likely to get cold injuries and hypothermia.

Hypothermia is accompanied by such symptoms as fever, shivering, rapid breathing and pulse, slightly increased blood pressure and goose-bumps. People staying out in the cold for too long may experience loss of coordination, confusion, cramps and convulsions. If you have these symptoms, call a physician immediately.

The most important thing during hypothermia is to restore normal body temperatures. You should stay in a warm room, wear dry clothes and cover yourself with a warm blanket. It is very important to keep your head covered because it gives off 30 percent of your body heat.

Hot drinks are essential. You can take a warm bath, but you should heat the water gradually, from 28 degrees Celsius to 34–36 degrees. You can rub your body gently with a soft sponge. Keep your head and neck upright.

First aid during frostbite

According to doctors, the number of frostbite cases increases during temperature fluctuations, rather than consistent subzero temperatures. Feet are most prone to frostbite, followed by hands, noses, ears and cheeks. It’s easy to overlook minor frostbite. Skin temperatures drop, the skin pales, loses sensitivity and a prickling or burning sensation may set in.

Just as during general cold injury, people with frostbite should first warm themselves in a warm and windless place. They should take off wet clothes, cover themselves with a blanket and drink hot water or tea, but no alcohol. You can warm a frostbitten body section using surgical-cotton/gauze dressings with a layer of compress paper or polyethylene film. You can also use a blanket or foam rubber.

A warm bath will also prove helpful. In the case of local frostbite, you should raise water temperatures little by little, starting at 17–18 degrees Celsius. After that, water should be heated to 36–37 degrees for about 60 minutes. Don’t rub your body with snow and ice because you may damage body tissues and cause additional hypothermia.

If your skin grows warmer and if sensitivity is restored, this means you have been suffering from superficial hypothermia. Pain and lack of sensitivity after warming are more characteristic of deep frostbite cases. If symptoms persist, you should contact a physician immediately.