Colds and flu

Updated 15 July 2014

Teens: prevent flu this winter

Think back to last winter when you had flu twice and colds three times.It doesn't help that you're stuck in a classroom five days a week with thirty or more people – and germs.


Think back to last winter when you had flu twice and colds three times. And it probably doesn't help that you're stuck in a classroom five days a week with thirty or more people – and their germs.

So, short of staying at home for the rest of your life in order to avoid getting the flu, what can you do to minimise your risk of being laid low this winter? Quite a lot actually.

Wash those hands. Regular handwashing is essential. Also do not touch your eyes, mouth and nose unnecessarily. Avoid touching things such as handrailings on stairs, lift buttons or other peoples' computer mouses, as far as possible. Flu often gets spread by means of these.

Use and lose hankies. Sneeze into disposable handkerchiefs – and dispose of them. Viruses from one sneeze can travel as far as 5 metres. Steer clear of people who are sneezing or coughing. Encourage fellow scholars who are clearly ill, to stay at home.

Don't dry out. Drink lots of water. This will protect the inner mucous linings of the respiratory tract, which make up your first line of defence against cold and flu viruses.

Beat the heat. Many types of heaters dry out the air and in a confined space can create an ideal environment for viruses to spread. This also happens when heaters are left on overnight.

Don't share your viruses. Don't share food, utensils, pens, pencils, handkerchiefs or towels with fellow students. Flu germs spread very easily by means of these things.

Don't put your germs where your mouth is. Avoid kissing anyone who may have the flu! You will almost certainly be next in line.

Hit the fruit. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to make sure that your defences are up and running. Eating a healthy diet helps your immune system to fight viruses. If the canteen has no fresh fruit, bring some from home.

Don't be a couch potato. Do regular moderate exercise. Listen to your body by taking a break when you're feeling under the weather.

Get the shot. Ask your parents to take you to the doctor or chemist to get this year's flu vaccine. These minimise your chances of getting the particular strain of flu doing the rounds in the school this year.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24,  updated June 2010)

(Picture: teen with flu from Shutterstock)


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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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