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Winter Wellness

Dr Angela Rai of the London General Practice provides some advice for the winter months.

Winter is a beautiful time of year but can also trigger common winter illnesses.

Influenza is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is highly contagious and characterised by sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle pains and tiredness, plus a dry cough, sore throat and congestion. Colds have similar symptoms, but caused by a different virus, and usually less severe. Recovery is usually 2- 7 days. Flu may be complicated by developing more severe infections such as bronchitis or secondary bacterial pneumonia.

The virus is spread by tiny droplets that come out of the nose or mouth when someone coughs or sneezes. If someone breathes in the droplets or touches surfaces that the droplets have landed on and then touch their nose or mouth, they can become infected.

Managing symptoms includes rest, drinking plenty of water to keep well hydrated, and keeping warm. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken for fever and pain, and good hygiene and hand washing to help prevent the virus spreading. Antibiotics won’t work for flu, but they may be used if you develop a secondary bacterial infection such as a chest infection.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is another virus that causes a respiratory tract illness and can be severe in infants. Most children with bronchiolitis have mild symptoms and recover within 2-3 weeks. Symptoms include a rasping and persistent dry cough, wheeze, brief pauses in breathing, feeding less and vomiting.

It helps to keep your child upright to make breathing easier, giving them plenty of fluids, keeping the air moist with a humidifier and relieving fever with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Some children will require hospital admission if they are not getting enough oxygen into their blood because of breathing difficulties.

Norovirus also known as the winter vomiting bug causes diarrhoea and vomiting. It usually clears up by itself within a few days. Symptoms include vomiting and watery diarrhoea. You can also experience fever, headaches, abdominal pain and cramps. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Take paracetamol for any aches and pains and get plenty of rest. Adults can be given antiemetic medication to stop the vomiting if required. If you become very unwell and symptoms persist you should seek medical attention.

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