atnurse
Ears, Nose and Throat, Healthy Living, Immune System, Infectious Diseases

Warning: Cold and Flu Season Ahead

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Flu Pandemic in the Philippines in 2009

It’s the rainy season again, which also marks the cold and flu season in the Philippines. There is no better way to beat these viruses than an ounce of prevention, so I chose to re-post an informative article written by Nick Peterson on “Scientifically Speaking: What’s the Cold Got to Do with It?”. I did a few editing to make the article appropriate for a tropical country setting.

Although, there is no winter in the Philippines and the viruses do not reach their gel state, flu spreads fast during the rainy season because of the cooler temperature, and the increased humidity and moisture of the air. Therefore, the air droplets easily carry viruses and transfers them from person to person. Another obvious reason is that the cooler season tends to dry up the mucosal cavities of the mouth and nose, making them a good breeding ground for viruses or bacteria for that matter.

On another note, if you ask me what is my position on whether to stay at home or to go out during the cold and flu season? I’d say, I had better stay at home, as long as, I am sure there is no carrier of the virus in our household.

“People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

An article by Nick Peterson, which was originally posted at What’s Up, Usana?

This month’s edition of Scientifically Speaking goes out to all the moms and dads who’ve warned their children throughout the years about exposure to the cold weather, which will inevitably lead to “catching a cold,” right?

Seriously though, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to wonder if my mom was just duping me the whole time. Both a cold and the flu are caused by viral infections, so what in the heck does cold weather have to do with anything?

It looks like we’ve stumbled across a great topic for Scientifically Speaking. I did a little digging and — as always — got a few leads from our expert scientists. I’d like to say I’ve got a solid answer for you guys, but there seems to be some difference of opinion within the medical community. Let’s break down my findings, shall we?

 

Cold vs. Flu

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Cold versus Flu

Before we dive into all the cold weather talk, let’s discuss what a cold actually is. With more than 200 viruses causing it, the common cold is a viral infectious disease that usually leads to symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing.

The most common virus strands that cause a cold are rhinoviruses, and all of those nasty symptoms you experience are actually a result of your body’s immune response to the infection rather than the deterioration of tissue that the actual virus causes. In more extreme cases, the virus causing your cold can lead to viral or bacterial pneumonia.

The flu, or influenza, is also a respiratory infection, but it’s caused specifically by influenza viruses and usually leads to more severe symptoms such as fever, body aches, chills and headaches. There are three different types of flu viruses, all of which humans are susceptible to.

What the Experts Say

The National Institutes of Health uncovered some evidence that might back up your parent’s argument to keep warm during the cold season. These findings are specifically associated with the flu virus and its outer covering, or envelope.

The study showed that colder temperatures (in case of areas with winter – near or below freezing), cause the flu virus to form a rubbery, gel-like covering that shields the virus, allowing for easier transfer from person to person. Once the virus enters the body, usually through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose or eyes, it reaches warmer temperatures in the respiratory tract and causes the covering to melt. The virus’ outer covering then reaches a liquid phase, allowing it to infect the cells of its new host.

On the flip side, during warmer seasons the temperature is too high for the viral membrane to enter its gel state. Because of this, flu viruses often can’t withstand the elements and will dry out and weaken, leading to the end of “flu season.” This led the scientists to wonder whether people might better protect themselves against the flu by remaining indoors at warmer temperatures than usual.

What the Other Experts Say

According to other experts, staying indoors might be the worst thing you can do for yourself throughout the colder season. A leading theory is that confinement breeds infection.

“In winter, we spend more time indoors, in rooms that may not get a lot of circulation, giving us more opportunities to be exposed to respiratory viruses,” says William Schaffner, M.D., chairman of the department of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, in this Real Simple article.

Additionally, Schaffner adds, the winter air, inside and outside, also tends to be less humid, drying nasal passages and making them more vulnerable to viral invasion.

What You Can Do

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Flu Prevention Tips

These are only two opinions on the subject, but there’s a lot of information out there. Do some investigating yourself to see what the research tells us.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do to fight that cold or flu virus is take preventative measures that support a healthy immune system. Evidence suggests that a healthy dose of both vitamin C and zinc may help. Deficiency in either of these may make individuals more susceptible to impaired immune response. Healthy adults generally need at least 75–90 mg of vitamin C and 8–11 mg of zinc per day to avoid severe deficiency.

Another important way to protect yourself from a virus is to avoid any kind of hand-to-face contact. Typically, a virus enters through hand-to-eye, -nose, or -mouth transmission. And of course, don’t forget to take the obvious precautions: healthy diet and exercise, sufficient amounts of sleep, disinfecting germ-susceptible areas, and regularly washing hands.

Media Credits:
Flu Season Ahead: http://greenprescription.net/home-remedies/8-home-remedies-for-flu/
Monsoon Rains: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/694214/dry-winds-giving-way-to-monsoon
Woman with Flu: https://www.lloydspharmacy.com/en/info/Flu
Flu Prevention Tips: http://www.aboutflusymptoms.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Flu-Prevention-Tips.png
Cold versus Flu: http://www.codral.com.au/cold-and-flu-symptoms

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