Colds and flu

Updated 09 October 2017

Hand washing vs expensive flu meds

In the run-up to the annual influenza season hard-pressed South African consumers are being encouraged to weigh up the relative costs of various preventative measures.

In the run-up to the annual influenza season when up to 20% of the population comes down with the flu, hard-pressed South African consumers are being encouraged to weigh up the relative costs of various preventative measures.

That’s according to leading empowered health and hygiene solutions provider Bidvest Steiner. As a member of the JSE-listed Bidvest Group, the company is a leading proponent of the simple and cost-effective act of hand washing.

“Hand washing is a unique weapon in the annual fight against flu as it can be practised by people who do not wish to get the flu and by those who do not want to spread the virus they have already contracted,” said Alan Fainman, Managing Director of Bidvest Steiner.

Prevention is better than cure and there are two primary ways to prevent influenza:

The first is through getting a flu shot that reduces your chances of contracting the annual virus. The second is through hand-washing which can prevent South Africans from catching the flu by ensuring it does not enter the body through hand to mouth infection.

“While there is no cure for the common cold or influenza, people dose themselves with expensive remedies to relieve the symptoms of these annual bugbears. This makes little sense when one considers the miniscule cost of soap and running water that could have prevented these symptoms in the first place,” explained Mr Fainman.

Aside from ensuring that South Africans receive the annual flu shots that are available this month  at pharmacies, doctors rooms, hospitals and clinics nationwide, Mr Fainman listed several other common sense approaches to preventing influenza in 2012:

1. Avoid close contact and stay at home

Technology means that we don’t have to be in close proximity to each other to communicate. When you are feeling ill make use of the telephone, SMS,skype or email, but be considerate and don’t come into physical contact with other people.

2. Cover your mouth and nose

If you must be around others when you are sick, quickly cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you feel a cough or a sneeze coming on. Always dispose of your tissues and do not leave them lying around.

3. Clean your hands often

Cleaning your hands with soap, water and quality hand sanitiser will protect you from germs and help prevent those around you from being exposed to your germs.

4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

Touching your eyes, nose or mouth increases the chances of a virus entering your body so always wash your hands prior to doing so.

5. Practice other good health habits.

Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food as these all help to ward of illness.

(Press release, Bidvest Steiner, March 2012)


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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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