As winter begins, so does the flu season, following its last peak during the monsoon months in tropical and subtropical climates.
This season, experts have cautioned that flu burden could be significant, due to a worrying phenomenon of ‘immunity debt’ worldwide. This is the lack of exposure to common viruses because people were social distancing and wearing masks over the past two years. Now, with pandemic restrictions lifted, the population’s susceptibility for influenza infection is estimated to have increased by 10 to 60 per cent, according to research by Taslim Ali and colleagues (2022).[i]
This could lead to a one to four-fold rise for the current 2022-23 flu season. In India, data collected in 2022 already points to a significant rise in cases across Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal, Punjab, and more.[ii] The country’s swine flu numbers are also surging, with a reported 15-fold rise from the previous year.[iii]
Dr Jejoe Karankumar, Medical Affairs Director, Abbott India commented, “Influenza is a vaccine-preventable disease, and there are a range of measures that people can adopt to protect themselves and their families from its related health complications. This is important not just for children, but for at-risk adults as well, to extend the layers of protection against influenza, across the population.”
To protect against the flu, here are 3 steps you can take:
Get yourself and your family fully vaccinated – follow the pediatric vaccine schedule for children, and get an annual flu shot for adults. Getting the vaccine every year is key since flu virus variants evolve, and flu shots are developed according to the latest strain identified by the WHO.[iv]
Wash your hands regularly using soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and disinfect frequently-touched items.
Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick, increase ventilation in rooms, and mask up in crowded public spaces.
These steps can help you lessen your chance of getting infected with the flu. Still, keep an eye out for any flu signs – like fever, chills, cough, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, and more.
Dr Prashant Gowda, Paediatrician & Neonatologist, Director and Founder of Motherhood Hospital, Kaikondrahalli, Bengaluru said, “In Bengaluru, we have seen 3-4 times rise in the number of flu cases. To tackle this rise, it is important for more people to understand how the flu can affect different groups, and why protection against it is vital. Supporting increased vaccine uptake across the population and other preventive measures can help more individuals be safeguarded from the flu. It can also be managed with key steps including treating symptoms, and with rest and good nutrition.”
In case you get the flu, here are 4 simple ways to manage symptoms this winter:
Stay at home and rest – Especially during the first few days of the flu, you need to take it easy and get some rest. As the days become colder and it becomes harder to get out of bed, you can take advantage of this and curl up under some blankets and nap, read, or watch some television as you recover and regain energy.
Drink plenty of fluids – Comforting broth-based winter soups (like chicken noodle soup) and non-caffeinated hot herbal teas (like ginger and chamomile) are key to fighting the flu. Also, don’t overlook the benefits of hot water with lemon, coconut water, or fresh fruit juice in easing your symptoms.
Eat well – While you may not want to eat much when you’re sick, good nutrition is important. Consume a good amount of seasonal fruits like oranges, pomegranates, strawberries and more, as well as winter vegetables like spinach and sweet potatoes. Spicy foods – with hot peppers, ginger, and turmeric –also reduce inflammation and counter congestion.
Steam – Especially if you have a stuffy nose, take a hot shower, or breathe in steam to clear up your nasal passages. This can also help you keep warm.
Pic Credit: webershandwick.com