Colds and flu

Updated 08 May 2015

Need to beat the flu? Our expert tells you how

Do you have a runny nose and scratchy throat? Keep the dreaded flu at bay with the following advice from our expert.


Health24 readers have been asking a number of pertinent flu-related questions – and our expert has some very practical answers. The advice might come in handy the next time you're feeling sick as a dog.

Health24's experts offer the following practical tips:

1. What do should you do when you have the flu?

The expert says: The flu is caused by a virus and therefore treatment options are supportive and can only address the symptoms.

When you have the flu virus your immune system is weakened, so it is a good idea to take vitamin C. Paracetamol and anti-inflammatories will also come in handy to help with body aches and a fever, but the most important part of treating a flu is getting rest.

If necessary you may use over-the-counter cough mixtures or nasal sprays.

Consult a doctor if you are experiencing any serious symptoms such as an unexplained rash, fever that does not go down, a worsening cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting or diarrhoea.

2. Should I continue my weight loss diet while I have the flu?

The expert says: If you catch the flu while on a special eating plan, you should be aware that your diet might be lacking certain nutrients, which could have weakened your immune system and made you more susceptible to the flu virus.

Staying hydrated and eating healthily is vital as it will help fuel your body while you're sick. Chicken soup is known to soothe a sore throat, clear clogged passageways, and hydrate a thirsty body.

Eating foods high in vitamin C or taking a vitamin C supplement will help boost your immune system and fight the virus.

If you are desperate to lose weight or build muscle, you might be tempted to hit the gym regardless of how sick you're feeling, but our expert advises that you stay clear of training as it might put strain on your heart and lungs.

3. Should I take flu medication or get a flu shot while I'm pregnant?

According to a report, most doctors do not recommend flu shots to their pregnant patients, who are more likely to develop serious complications if they do get the flu.

During pregnancy, the body needs more of the immune support nutrients vitamin C and zinc.

The expert says: Our vitamin expert advises that pregnant women make use of natural flu remedies such as higher doses of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C can safely be taken in doses between 300 to 1000 mg per day during pregnancy. Doses of 2000 mg and higher are not recommended. Zinc is another supplement you can take and 15 mg per day should suffice.

The vitamin expert offers this natural flu busting recipe, which is safe for use by pregnant women:

- In a teapot or small pot on stove, heat 600 ml water to boiling point.

- Add 1 large or 2 medium sliced lemons (don not remove the peel).

- Add 1 large piece of ginger, thinly sliced.

- Add 2 rooibos teabags (optional).

-  Sweeten with honey to taste.

- Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes.

This drink may be enjoyed cold or hot, 200 ml 3 times a day. The lemon and ginger help to reduce congestion and get rid of the mucus.

4. My colleague has the flu, will I get it?

A recent study revealed that most South Africans go to work when they have the flu.

The workplace is an ideal breeding ground for flu infections as people work for long periods in close proximity to each other.

The expert says:

Health24's resident doctor, Dr Owen Wiese, says you can do the following when a colleague has the flu:

- Stock up on Vitamin C.

- Use hand sanitizers to clean desk surfaces and hands.

- Wash your hands frequently.

- Establish good ventilation in the office area (open a door or a window).

If you have any health concerns, ask one of our experts.

Read more:

Cold-proof your body

How to beat colds and flu naturally

5 immune-boosting tips

Image: Shutterstock


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Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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