Although we experienced a mild cold- and flu season, if you did have flu this winter, it was probably Swine flu… 

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) found that the most flu samples tested this season to be influenza A (H1N1) or Swine flu.

So, if you had flu this winter, it’s no wonder you felt as horribly sick as you did.

However, a recent Pharma Dynamics survey indicates that many South Africans seem to have outsmarted colds and flu viruses this winter.

While the survey is only based on a sample of 1 837 South Africans, aged 18+, Pharma Dynamics found that just over a third polled suffered from a cold or flu this winter.

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A lucky 9% of respondents entirely escaped the grip of a cold, 38% only suffered once, 32% got it twice, 13% had it thrice and an ill-fated 8% had to fight it off four or more times this season.

Annemarie Blackmore, Antimicrobial Product Manager at Pharma Dynamics, says we had a relatively mild cold- and flu season, compared to elsewhere in the world. In Britain and the US, the dreaded Aussie flu (H3N2) wreaked havoc during their winter.

Related: How effective is the flu vaccine?

How did South Africans outsmart Swine flu?

“According to SA’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), most flu samples that tested positive this season have been identified as influenza A (H1N1), more commonly known as Swine flu. The H3N2 strain typically has a higher mortality rate than the milder H1N1, particularly among the young, elderly and those who have compromised immune systems. The H3N2 strain was more predominant in SA last year but has only been detected in small numbers this time around,” says Blackmore.

According to SA’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), most flu samples that tested positive this season have been identified as influenza A (H1N1), more commonly known as Swine flu

“Even though the colds- and flu season reared its head earlier this year, during the first week of May – almost four weeks earlier than last year – the total number of reported flu cases are lower compared to the same time last year.”

Quarantine sick family members

Blackmore says that, while circulating flu strains were less virulent this season, the over 200 viruses responsible for the common cold can cause an equal amount of discomfort, which according to Pharma Dynamics’ survey, South Africans tried to avoid at all costs.

“Sixty percent of survey respondents took great care in avoiding personal contact with a sick person – 9% even went as far as quarantining a sick family member, friend or colleague. Forty-two percent were militant about hand-washing, 41% covered their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and 14% regularly disinfected surfaces.”

A healthy diet and immune-boosting supplements

Improving their immunity was also a priority this winter with 45% relying on immune-boosting supplements and 36% on vitamins, while 27% increased their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.

At first sign of a cold or flu, the majority of respondents (46%) sought the advice of a pharmacist, while only a quarter called on their GP. Nineteen percent relied on past experience and 10% consulted the internet for guidance.

Of those who fell ill, 91% relied on one or more over-the-counter (OTC) treatments to help manage symptoms, while a hardy 9% waited it out.

“What is interesting to note,” says Blackmore, “is that many of the respondents polled (41%) made generics their go-to medicine choice this winter. Generics are exactly the same as brand-name medicines, but are up to 80% cheaper, which, over the course of a year, can amount to huge savings.”

South African’s top five feel good strategies

How do South Africans choose to recover from colds and flu?

According to the survey, those who succumbed to one of the many colds and flu viruses this season, cited sleeping (76%), taking a hot bath or shower (43%), drinking a cup of herbal tea, such as Rooibos (37%), watching their favourite TV series or movie (25%) and getting some fresh air (19%), among their top five feel-better strategies.

How to avoid colds and flu

For the final stretch of the colds- and flu season, Blackmore recommends a few more arsenal tactics to reduce one’s risk of infection:

“Keep up proper hygiene practices – which include not sharing the same cutlery, crockery, water bottles, lip balm, towels, etc. Be sure to also wipe down surfaces such as keyboards, tablets and phones to cut back on germs that could get near your face and mouth.

“Another factor that can turn you into a germ magnet, is unmanaged stress. Studies show that chronic stress can diminish immune function, including natural killer cell (a type of white blood cell) activity, which helps to fight viral infections. So, try meditation, yoga, running and/or breathing techniques to keep colds and flu at bay during the last lap of the season,” she advises.

Source:  Pharma Dynamics and www.express.co.ukwww.nicd.ac.za/index.php/2018-influenza-season-update/

www.vox.comwww.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231439/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/

www.sciencedaily.com and www.medicalnewstoday.com

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.