24 March 2015

Kick your drinking and smoking habits to curb TB

A healthy lifestyle is a simple way to prevent TB – so do more exercise, get adequate sleep, follow a balanced diet, limit your alcohol intake and quit smoking!


Exercise, adequate sleep and rest, a balanced diet, limiting alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking are some of the ways to help reduce the spread of tuberculosis (TB).

This is the advice from Allison Vienings, executive director of the Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA), to commemorate World TB Day (WTBD) on 24 March.

How TB is transmitted

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease which most commonly affects the lungs and is transmitted from one person to another via droplets from the throat and lungs of an infected person.

Read: TB deaths in SA are disgraceful, says Desmond Tutu

People who are in poor health are more susceptible to the disease; the key is therefore to lead a healthy lifestyle.

According to Vienings, “A healthy lifestyle is one of the simple ways to prevent TB, but often most difficult for people to incorporate."

Good hygiene is vital

Vienings urges every South African to start taking better care of themselves through good personal hygiene, exercise and basic lifestyle changes, and to avoid factors that may contribute to the spread of the bacteria.

She outlined five simple lifestyle changes to boost the immune system and help fight off tuberculosis bacteria:

1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat. Avoid fatty, sugary and processed foods.
2. Exercise often, at least 3 to 4 times a week. Try to incorporate some good cardiovascular exercise into your workouts, such as running, swimming or rowing.
3. Cut down on alcohol consumption and avoid smoking or taking drugs.
4. Get plenty of good quality sleep, ideally between 7 and 8 hours a night.
5. Maintain good personal hygiene and try to spend as much time as possible outdoors, in the fresh air.

“Take responsibility for yourself. If you think you might have any or all of the symptoms associated with TB, visit your local healthcare professional, clinic or doctor immediately,” she said.

Read: Why you need fresh air when using public transport

Vienings noted that with the different forms of TB, the symptoms are not always as clear-cut and vary from case to case.

The different forms of TB

There are two types of TB – latent and active. People with latent TB are not contagious and often show none of the symptoms associated with TB, whereas people with active TB are contagious and may have many of the TB symptoms.

Some of the usual symptoms include:

  • Persistent coughing with bloody mucus
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss, slight fever, night sweats
  • Pain in the chest

“Treatment depends on whether a patient has previously received anti-TB drugs and potentially may have since acquired a resistance," said Vienings.

She added that it is crucial that the correct drugs are given for the correct period and that no medicines are skipped.

Also read:

Is TB spinning out of control in South Africa?

Exciting new MDR-TB drug to be tried in South Africa

Drug-resistant TB remains a crisis

Image: No to tobacco and alcohol from Shutterstock


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