Dubai: It’s the time of the year where everyone seems to be suffering from an itchy throat, a stuffy nose, bad cough, or even fever — it’s the flu season.
You may be noticing family members, friends and colleagues falling sick simultaneously — all complaining of similar symptoms.
That’s because the winter sees an increase in many viruses, including the rhinovirus (common cold), respiratory viruses, and more commonly the influenza virus (flu), Dr Fiona Rennie, Consultant Family Medicine at Valiant Clinic told Gulf News.
Flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets when people with a flu cough, sneeze or talk.
“The viruses pass through the air and enter into your body through your nose or mouth. You can also be infected with flu virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your own mouth, nose, or possibly eyes,” explained Dr Rennie.
She pointed out that people with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, but it is possible that people may be able to infect others one day before symptoms occur.
While the flu viruses circulate around the year, in most countries flu activity peaks in the winter months.
“The UAE being an aviation hub, the visitors and UAE residents returning from vacations bring flu viruses into the country at any time of the year. Increased humidity and air conditioning may also increase the risk of catching flu,” explained Dr Rennie.
However, symptoms of a cold and flu slightly differ, making a diagnosis essential for the right treatment.
Dr Nahida Amin Ali, Family Medicine Consultant at King’s College Hospital London — Jumeirah Medical Centre described the flu and common cold as viral infections that share similar symptoms. She pointed out that while the common cold is caused by more than a hundred types of viruses, the flu is often caused by four groups of viruses, known as Influenza A, B, C and D.
“Symptoms can overlap. What we see with the flu is a sudden fever above 38 degrees, along with headaches, chills, fatigue, aching muscles, sore throat, and dry cough — where a person can become bed bound,” explained Dr Amin Ali.
However, the symptoms of a common cold can be similar, they are more likely to be milder and appear gradually.
Advising patients who are experiencing symptoms to see a family GP for assessment, Dr Amin Ali listed several ways that can help prevent getting infected with viruses.
“We find that no matter where you are living in the world, when the weather changes and becomes colder — the viruses are likely to emerge at that time,” she said. However, to avoid catching a cold, make it a habit to sneeze into a tissue and throw it in the bin, wash your hands regularly, and wipe down any surfaces that may be contaminated, added Dr Amin Ali.
While people of all ages can get the flu, some people are at a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. “We do advice people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions to take the flu vaccine,” said Dr Amin Ali.