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Spring health

Spring health

With winter over, you still have to protect you and your family against colds, flu, allergies and sunburn
Josephine Lim

Spring’s finally here, which means no more freezing cold weather and having to bundle up all the time. But, just because the weather’s improving doesn’t mean you can’t still catch end-of-season colds and flu, which tend to show up in March and April.

Prevention is key during these transition months. Just because the weather warms up a bit, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress properly, stay fit and active and take cautionary measures against contracting colds and flu.

If you start feeling any of these symptoms, know it may not be due to the change in seasons — you may actually be sick with a cold or the flu:
  • fatigue and feeling weak
  • muscle aches
  • chills and sweating
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • sore throat
It’s difficult to tell a cold and flu apart, so don’t hesitate visiting your doctor if you experience symptoms for more than three days in a row. Your doctor will help you choose the best course of treatment.

If you do have a cold or the flu, here are some tips on getting better, faster:

Drink lots of fluid, but avoid anything with caffeine. since it will dehydrate you and make you feel worse. Also, drink lots of orange juice and eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables, as the additional vitamin C and nutrients will help strengthen your immune system.

Watch your diet. Chicken noodle soup is a good, wholesome meal that won’t upset your stomach. Plus, simple foods such was bread, apple sauce, bananas and rice are also good options.

Get lots of rest. If you need to go to class or work, make sure to rest immediately afterward. However, if you’re contagious, consider not going in so that you don’t infect others.

Try to sleep as much as possible. Get plenty of rest and listen to your body. If you feel heavy, feverish or exhausted, don’t fight it. Go to bed instead and cancel your plans. By taking a few days off and resting properly, you’ll get better faster and prevent prolonging your illness.

You’ll know the worst is over when your symptoms start to subside, and you can function properly again. That being said, make sure if you’re exercising or working, don’t overdo it because it’s still easy for you to fall sick again shortly after the worst is over.

Dealing with allergies

Spring is here and flowers are in full bloom. Nice for many, except for those who suffer from these common symptoms: red, watery eyes, sneezing fits and a running nose. When asked what’s wrong, the answer is usually an “allergy.” Out come the nasal sprays and allergy medicines to get them through the day.

What exactly are allergies? And why do some people have them and some don’t?

An allergy results from an overreaction of the body’s immune system to substances that usually cause no reaction in most people. Yes, it’s the same defence system of our body that causes the allergic response, by being hypersensitive to some substances.

Triggers and reaction
Substances that can trigger an allergy are called allergens. A person with allergies produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E — or IgE. It’s made by certain white blood cells and attaches itself to a type of cell called a mast cell, which is present throughout the body and is particularly common in the eyes, nose, throat, skin, lungs and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.

When exposed to an allergen such as ragweed, the IgE opens up the mast cells, releasing a chemical, histamine, which causes inflammation and the resulting allergic symptoms.

Allergies can vary in severity from mild and bothersome, like a running nose, to a severe and possibly fatal allergic reaction to penicillin, called anaphylaxis. The tendency to be allergic is an inherited trait, which explains why a substance may cause an allergy only for some people.

Avoiding allergens
Simple precautions like keeping doors and windows closed at night, monitoring the pollen index, and avoiding grass cutting or leaf-raking can do a lot to prevent day- to-day allergies.

Replacing allergen-trapping carpets with other types of flooring is also recommended.

If symptoms are severe or persistent and need medication, there are many effective anti-allergens, called antihistamines, available. Inhaled medicines are good for allergic rhinitis, a very common form of allergy. Oral tablets may be taken for more generalized allergy symptoms, like sneezing, coughing or itching.

Drowsiness is the major side effect of these medicines and they should be taken with care. For skin allergies, a lotion or cream may be applied. Until then, enjoy the flowers, but keep the allergens away.

Tackling asthma early
Spring can trigger asthma in children and adults, especially with the change in climate, humidity and freeborn pollutants that tend to increase due to warmer air. To learn how you can help deal with asthma, check out the article “Take your breath away.”

Practicing good skin safety
While you’re enjoying your time outdoors in the warmer weather, it’s important to take care of your skin. This should be done all-year round, but especially during the transition from winter to spring, as the sun is getting stronger, but the still-cool weather makes it hard to notice. You can still get a sunburn on cool days, so think skin safety now.

Using sunscreen protects you against both UVA and UVB rays, which cause sun damage, possibly leading to skin cancer. You’ll also want to protect your vision by wearing sunglasses when outside, as these rays can also cause eye problems, not to mention weaken your immune system and speed up the aging of your skin.