Colds and flu

Updated 11 July 2014

What are the special considerations when treating flu?

Special consideration should be given to influenza e.g. during pregnancy, when doing sport, by smokers.

 Influenza and breastfeeding

The flu virus cannot be transmitted from mom to baby through breast milk. Continue breastfeeding if you have flu, as the antibodies you transmit to your baby via the breast milk helps to protect him or her from infection.

Influenza and pregnancy

Pregnant women, especially those in the second and third trimester, are at increased risk for developing severe seasonal influenza. In the case of pandemic H1N1, women at any stage of pregnancy appear to be at increased risk of developing severe and fatal influenza. That’s why current influenza vaccination recommendations include all pregnant women.

Influenza and sport

Refrain from strenuous exercise while you’re ill. If you are a professional athlete, remember that several ingredients of over-the-counter medications for cold and flu are banned by the respective governing bodies.

Flu and smokers

In smokers, the cilia (the tiny “brooms” of the airways which clear the lungs) are already damaged, which means that an important defence mechanism of the airways is compromised. They are further compromised by the flu, which can make one more vulnerable to complications such as secondary bacterial infection.

(Reviewed by Dr Jane Yeats, Department of Virology, University of Cape Town 2006)

(Updated and reviewed by Dr Jean Maritz and Dr Leana Maree, medical virologists, Tygerberg Hospital and University of Stellenbosch 2010)


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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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