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March 29, 2004 | by  | in Opinion |
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Workout for Winter Wellbeing: Prevent common colds, influenza (flu) and meningitis

Winter is approaching – so now is a good time to review common respiratory viruses such as common colds, influenza and viral or bacterial meningitis. Fortunately, we are not at risk of having SARS and Avian Flu in NZ.

Colds and flu are definitely different creatures. Influenza is a serious viral infection, and anyone who has ever had flu will more than likely remember how sick they were and how they would never like to go through that experience again. You won’t want to miss lectures and have your valuable study time disturbed due to these winter illnesses so take the following measures to help prevent yourself from developing colds, flu & meningitis.

Cold and flu viruses:
These are passed in small droplets dispersed in the air by sneezing or coughing or by hand-to-hand contact. Rubbing your nose, mouth, or eyes with droplets from an infected person allows the virus to enter your body. Your risk of infection increases with stress, fatigue, poor nutrition, smoking and lack of exercise.

To maintain resistance and minimise risk of infection, take good care of yourself and keep your immune system strong with regular exercise, vitamin-rich foods, sufficient sleep, plenty of fluids and try to manage your level of stress (see the Counselling Service for tips on this).

Wash your hands frequently, especially when around people who have colds, and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.

Avoid sharing eating utensils, water bottles, lip balm and whistles.

The best way to prevent getting flu is to be immunised every autumn – preferably by the end of April. It may take two weeks after you have the flu vaccine before your body’s immune system produces the necessary antibodies to protect you from infection. Flu vaccines are about 70-90% effective in preventing infection.

Meningitis:
Caused by either a virus or bacteria, Meningitis is a serious and fatal disease. Fortunately, it is not as common as colds and flu and is not as easily spread – only by close contact. However: don’t forget these warning signs – which indicate that you should see a doctor:

If your cold symptoms are not improving after a few days (2-3 days) contact Student Health (463 5308) requesting an urgent appointment, especially if you are experiencing ear pain, sinus pain, any difficulty with breathing, including wheezing, chest discomfort, persistent sore throat with significant swelling to the lymph nodes in your neck.

SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY if you or anyone you know ever develops any of the danger symptoms associated with Meningitis such as:

* Severe headache or neck pain

* Photosensitivity/dislike of bright lights

* High fever, possibly with cold hands and feet

* Vomiting, sometimes with diarrhoea

* Joint or muscle pains, sometimes stomach cramps

* Drowsiness, difficulty with waking them up from sleep

* Confusion

* Seizure / fit

* Skin rash which typically starts off as tiny red or purple “pin-pricks” anywhere on the body, the “pin pricks” can then develop into what looks like fresh bruising.

For more information please contact Registered Nurse Catherine Nelson or Dr Naing at the Student Health Service: Catherine.nelson [at] vuw.ac.nz
or thaw.naing [at] vuw.ac.nz
or check out the following websites:
www.meningitis.org.nz
www.moh.govt.nz
www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/
www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm

AND REMEMBER:
if you do want to make an appointment at STUDENT HEALTH at KELBURN, TE ARO or PIPITEA CAMPUSES you should ring 463 5308 or ring 924 2037 for an appointment at KARORI CAMPUS

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