Question for the expert

How to protect yourself and your loved ones when everyone around you is sick – tells VisitHealth’s family doctor


Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we've all become more vigilant about our health - we hope you are too. And if you suddenly don't, the winter season is a good time to think about protecting your body. When asked about the importance of regular check-ups, vaccinations, the difference of seasonal viruses, and ways to support immunity during this challenging period, we were told in detail by VisitHealth Medical Center's family physician - Helal Attayi.

What diseases can be considered seasonal?

The common cold is an infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract that can perhaps be called one of the most common. The infection is usually accompanied by a stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, and a number of other symptoms. The course is easy in most cases, transmitted by airborne droplets (even a few days before the symptoms appear in the carrier) and is quite common in the fall and winter period.

Streptococcal pharyngitis is a bacterial infection that causes a sore throat and no coughing, sneezing or stuffy nose. Diagnosis is also confirmed by swabbing the nose or throat.

Whooping cough is a highly infectious (very contagious) disease that can cause symptoms similar to the common cold. Its distinguishing feature is a characteristic violent cough. To diagnose the disease, a swab from the nose or throat must be taken.

Allergic rhinitis occurs in response to exposure to specific allergens. Rhinitis symptoms, similar to those of a common cold, may be present for 2 weeks or more. It is usually only diagnosed when a detailed examination is performed.

Influenza is a viral infection whose severity can range from asymptomatic carrier to a severe, life-threatening form. If myalgia (muscle pain of various types) or fever occurs, flu should be suspected and a doctor should be consulted immediately.

COVID-19 – symptoms may resemble the common cold and may include headache, runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of smell and taste. Diagnosis is confirmed by swabbing the nose or throat.

What is the difference between the flu and Covid?

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Both diseases have similar signs and symptoms, making them often difficult to distinguish from each other. The intensity of symptoms can range from none to mild or severe.

The key difference is that the diseases are caused by different viruses:

– For influenza, influenza A and B virus;

– For Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

It should be realized that these are viruses from different groups. And, as a consequence, the treatment methods and medications used are also different.

The incubation period (the period when a person is contagious to others) after infection and before symptoms appear is also different:

– For influenza, 1 to 4 days from the time of infection;

– For Covid-19, 2 to 14 days from the time of infection.

It is worth noting that both influenza and Covid-19 carry a high risk of serious complications:

– For influenza – secondary bacterial infection on the background of reduced immunity;

– For Covid-19, thrombus formation, post pertussis conditions, and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.

Importantly, a person can have these two diseases at the same time. Therefore, early diagnosis is of fundamental importance. There is no need to delay going to the doctor. It is better to immediately go to the doctor, take tests, establish a diagnosis and get the appointment of the correct treatment, thereby accelerating recovery and preventing complications.

How do you protect yourself and your loved ones when everyone around you is sick?

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The best and simple preventive measures that one would like to recommend:

– Use of personal hygiene products (e.g. towels) or household items (e.g. cups);

– touch your eyes and nose as little as possible, the virus can enter the body this way;

– Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and throw away used tissues as soon as possible;

– Disinfect surfaces at home, work, or school, especially if you know someone in your community is sick;

– washing hands with warm water and soap.

What immune support methods would you recommend?

Maintaining a strong immune system is extremely important not only in the fall and winter. I would emphasize the following basic, but from this no less important, recommendations to strengthen the immune system:

– eat a balanced diet. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins in your diet, as well as foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants (such as citrus fruits, berries, garlic, ginger and leafy greens);

– Drink plenty of water – adequate fluid levels in the body are essential for overall health and immune function.

– Do moderate exercise – it helps improve circulation;

– Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night, as it is the foundation of most body processes;

– Consider vitamins and supplements (vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc and probiotics are known to support immunity). But, before you start taking the medication, be sure to consult your doctor;

– unless you have contraindications, get an annual flu shot;

– Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption – both addictions suppress the immune barrier.

What checkups should you have regularly, even if you feel fine?

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Regular medical checkups are important for prevention and early detection of possible health problems. But the specific tests you may need depend on your age, gender, family history, and individual risks.

Here are some common screenings that people often undergo on a regular basis:

– Cholesterol and lipid profile analysis helps to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease. Systematic testing is recommended, especially if you have risk factors;

– Controlling blood glucose levels is critical to detecting and managing diabetes. This is important, especially if you have a family history of diabetes;

– Cancer screenings such as – breast, cervical smear, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and colorectal cancer screening are essential for early detection of the disease.

Is it necessary to get flu shots and COVID?

I highly recommend getting both the flu shot and COVID-19. Vaccination is the most important and effective measure to protect yourself and others from such dangerous respiratory diseases.

Viruses tend to mutate and produce new strains year after year, the vaccine is also updated regularly and helps provide protection against most of them. Also another important point is “collective immunity”, which implies that the more people are immunized, the more effectively the spread of a particular virus is bought down. It’s the best preventative measure against a pandemic.

If you still have questions about this or any other topic, be sure to contact VisitHealth Clinic for a consultation. Our highly qualified specialists are always happy to help solve any problem of their patients.

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