As winter approaches, we are into that time of year where coughs, colds and flu become a lot more prominent. While some of us may reach the springtime without succombing to some sort of winter illness, most people will catch some sort of winter cold or flu during this time. These conditions may vary from blocked or runny nose, cough and fever to vomiting and diarhhoea. They can last from a few days to over a week, but even better is if we do not get sick like this in the first place. Here are some of my favourite tips to try avoid picking up one of these infections in the first place and how to best cope if you do get sick.

Get vaccinated against Influenza.
Getting the ‘flu-jab’ each year protects against seasonal influenza, which many people refer to as flu. This is one of the more serious winter infections we come into contact with each year and is responsible for numerous hospital stays and even deaths every winter. People with existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or pregnant women are all strongly recommended to get the vaccine. Fortunately, the vaccine is available in community pharmacies and in numerous clinics at local health centres. New plans to vaccinate children in schools should help minimise spread of influenza further.

Wash your hands regularly.
This sounds like a very simple step, but it is probably the most effective thing you can do to prevent becoming infected. Most winter infections are spread by airborne droplets after an infected person coughs or sneezes, but you can introduce these germs into your body by touching your mouth, nose or eyes with your hands or fingers that have come into contact with these droplets. By washing your hands properly and regularly throughout the day, you can help reduce the chance of getting ill.

Eat well, sleep well
Particularly in the build up to Christmas, we all can fall into the trap of trying to rush too many things into too little time. While this might seem fine on one or two occasions, doing this regularly and not giving your body time to rest and recover will catch up on you. Eventually we can find our immune system becomes run down and we are more susceptible to picking up infections, and are also more prone to other conditions such as cold sores and mouth ulcers. By making an effort to eat decent healthy meals and get some early nights, you will reap the benefits in the long run.

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is a good idea all year round, but particularly in winter. When we are a little dehydrated, the mucus in our nasal and respiratory systems becomes drier and a bit thicker. Central heating systems can also make this worse, which means the mucus is less effective at stopping germs entering our body. Aim for at least one litre of water throughout each day.

If you are sick, don’t spread it!
If you are sick, try not to go out in crowded public spaces until you are feeling better. This may not be too convenient during the Christmas shopping rush or when you are visiting friends/family, but mingling with crowds when you are sick will often result in you spreading the infection to many others.
If you get sick, ask your pharmacist for advice.  With so many medicines now available on general sale in supermarkets and shops, it can be easy to pick up a couple of products that say ‘cold’ or ‘flu’ on them and think this will sort you out. However, many of these products have simply paracetamol combined with caffeine in them and may not be the best product for your condition. Often they have no ingredients that will dry runny nose, clear catarrh or ease a cough. Some will treat different type of coughs that may not be exactly what you need. Some products can also interact with medication you are already taking. It’s not uncommon to find customers ask for advice only to find out they have been taking multiple products all containing paracetamol, at the same time. This can be quite dangerous, so it is always best to seek qualified advice when seeking the best medication to take for colds or flu.

Build yourself and kiddies up before winter hits.

I think September is a good time to take a good tonic, especially for kids going into first year and exam years,I find Floradix a particularly good build up,as well  as the solar range of vitamins.  For those students who find concentration difficult a good fish oil vitamin helps the Morepa range has a really good combination of omega oils that help those struggling to study. Every school year has its challenges but it is particularly important to approach a student’s sixth year as a marathon and ensure kids are eating properly and getting plenty of sleep throughout the year .

Back to school back to head lice!

Unfortunately back to school for many kids can mean another headlice infestation  .I find the lyclear products particularly good, however I think it should be left in the hair for 15-20 minutes rather than the recommended 10 minutes.  The key to getting rid of the lice is continual combing with the nite comb.  I also recommend the night or two after treatment to put loads of conditioner onto the child’s hair, let it dry in over night you can put a shower cap on if damp when going to bed. The next morning you rinse off the conditioner and again comb it with the nite comb. The conditioner smothers the lice and makes it more difficult for them to attach onto the hair shaft.

Please drop into us in Dun Laoghaire Pharmacy for any back to school advice.