It’s cold and flu season once again and odds are that you will come down with at least one such infection this year, and if you’re unlucky or a parent – kids bring these viruses home very regularly – you might even get sick two or three times.
You can, of course, easily lower your risk of getting the flu by getting the flu shot. Although it’s still early days, it appears that the current vaccine is a decent match against this year’s flu strain.
Unhappily, though, there are still no vaccines against the many different viral strains that cause colds. An experimental “cold vaccine” developed in the US seems to be working well at preventing colds in macaque monkeys, and although it’s a huge step from other primates to humans, this is still hopeful for the future.
Keep in mind that frequent hand-washing also seems to lower the chances of coming down with colds, the flu, and some gastrointestinal viruses too, so wash your hands often.
But if you do get sick, how can you tell the difference between a cold and the flu and does it even matter to know whether you are sick with one or the other?
The second part is easy to answer: a cold doesn’t do much damage but “the flu” can kill, especially the most vulnerable such as the very young, the very old, those with immune system problems, and others.
So yes, it does matter to know the difference if only to be much more aware of trying not to pass on the flu should you get it.
However telling the difference between the two isn’t easy.
In very general terms, although both viral infections produce somewhat similar symptoms such as a sore throat and cough, colds are milder infections that may drive you crazy because of your blocked nose or sneezing but unlike the flu, colds don’t usually lead to high fevers or more generalized symptoms such as aches and pains.
As I said, though, this is a broad generalization and there is a large symptom crossover between colds and flus.
Final question: how should these viral infections be treated?
Lots of fluids (as a Jewish man, I swear in the benefits of frequent large bowls of delicious home-made chicken soup), rest (I also believe that people who are sick with what they believe to be the flu should stay home until they feel better; and if they can’t stay home, they should at least wash their hands as often as they can) and judicious use of medications for symptoms, although if you do decide to use drugs for symptoms, please do yourself a favour and consult your pharmacist about possible side effects from these drugs and especially how these drugs may interact with other drugs you may be taking.
If you’re sick of being sick then London Drugs has everything you need to take care of your health. Click here to shop our collection of cough, cold and flu relief, or learn more about getting the flu shot at London Drugs here.
For reasons that are too strange for me to understand, the flu vaccine is surrounded by more myths than Donald Trump has come up for why Hilary Clinton is more popular than him.
So if you’re hesitant to get a flu vaccine this year because you’re someone who has bought into one of those myths, especially the myth that the flu vaccine can give you the flu – it simply cannot. Period – let me try to change your mind by offering you a couple of simple but I think compelling reasons to get a flu vaccine this year.
First, getting vaccinated against the flu lowers your risk of getting a nasty bout of that very common winter-time infection, an illness that not only lasts for 7-14 days but which also produces pretty unwelcome symptoms.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Well, the effectiveness varies year-to-year depending on how accurately the experts were when they decided which strains of flu virus to include in that year’s vaccine.
Sometimes they miss badly, of course, but last year, they did quite well so that last year’s flu vaccine was about 60% effective at preventing the flu, and hey, 60% effectiveness is nothing to sneeze at, I think you’d all agree.
But just as important as its overall preventive ability is that the flu vaccine is also quite effective at reducing the potential complications that can accompany the flu, such as pneumonia, which can, of course, be a life-threatening infection.
But for me, the overall main reason to get you all to get a flu shot every year is that widespread use of flu vaccination reduces the number of people who get sick with the flu, which in turn also reduces – obviously – the number of people who can pass the flu on, especially to people who are very vulnerable to flu complications, such as seniors – me! – and infants – my new grandson, who is still too young to get a flu shot.
So hey, do everyone around you a favour and get yourself a flu shot this year.
All the little ones and the old ones you come in contact with will be grateful to you for your effort.
To learn more about getting the flu shot at London Drugs or about booking an appointment, visit: http://www.londondrugs.com/flu.
There’s been a lot of emphasis the last few decades on the issue of “polypharmacy”, that is, patients who are taking too may drugs.
This is especially a concern, of course, for the elderly, who cannot tolerate most drugs as well as younger people can, and who also tend to develop far more complications from their drugs than younger people do, in part because seniors like me tend to have multiple health problems, and those problems can often affect how a particular medication works in us.
Plus, because seniors are often on a lot of medications, many seniors don’t fully understand how to take their meds, when to take them, when not to mix their pills, and so on, which also leads to a lot of preventable medication-related problems.
To illustrate how much of a problem this can be, in a recent study published in the journal Age Aging, over 750 “patients aged 60 and over who were taking five or more prescribed drugs simultaneously were asked about their medication”.
Only 15 % of these patients fully understood the nature of their medication use, and no surprise here, men, those taking the most meds, and the most elderly were the worst at knowing all they should know about their drugs.
So if you have to take any drugs regularly, even if it’s only 2 or 3, here’s a strategy that really cuts down on the potential pitfalls from using those meds: make your pharmacist into a very good friend.
It’s what I do: whenever I have to start on a new drug – I have had to change my blood pressure medication several times over the last couple of years, for example – I always try to ask my pharmacist about that new drug such as what are the likely side effects, what are some of the less common but more serious side effects I should look out for, when should I take my pills, with what can I take them, and how will this new pill react with the ones I’m already on, and so on.
In fact, if you’re taking 5 or more medications, there is a program called the Medication Review Service which specifically aims to answer all those questions – and some you haven’t even thought of – to help educate you about the drugs you are taking.
And one other useful medication-taking strategy that can be help a lot of people is the blister- packing service, which can help those of us who are somewhat forgetful about when to take our pills to actually take them at the time we’re supposed to.
See your pharmacist today to make sure you’re on the right track with your prescriptions.
If you believe you can boost either your IQ or even your memory by buying one of those apps that promise to “train” your brain, you may want to hold on to your hard-earned dollars just a tad longer because you may not be getting your money’s worth when you purchase such a program.
At least not according to a recent study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National (US) Academy of Sciences. Specifically what these researchers concluded by looking at a bunch of studies that measured brain performance after brain training is that although these apps and programs can improve memory or IQ a slight bit, that effect is mainly due to a placebo effect because simply knowing that you’re taking a brain training app is enough to have a small positive effect on your cognitive abilities, which fits what most “memory experts” have been saying for a long time, that is, that the science behind these memory training apps is very scant at best, and that you should be wary about their positive promises.
But if you want to maintain or even improve your brain function, don’t get too discouraged by this news because there is at least one well-established way to do that and that is to do some regular exercise, which has proven time and again to have a positive effect on brain function. Plus, it can be done for free.
Summertime and yes, the living is easy, but on that ever-present other hand, the living can also be hard, especially on your skin – something you all know, I’m sure – but here’s the one you may not know, summertime is also very hard on your eyes.
Because long-term excess sunlight exposure raises the risk of at least two very common eye disorders.
One is cataracts which are “hardenings” in the lens of the eye (usually in both lenses, of course) and which eventually very often result in the need to have surgery to remove one or both lens.
That risk has been known for a long time but the eye problem linked to sunlight that’s been discovered more recently is macular degeneration (that’s a more recent link), the most common cause of blindness in North American seniors.
So if you want to see well into your senior years, and trust me, you do, you really want to protect your eyes from too much sunlight.
To that end, buy a good pair of sunglasses, and try to wear those sunglasses as often as you can when outside (remember that you still get some UV exposure even on cloudy days), and remember, too, that some surfaces such as water magnify the effect of sunlight on your eyes.
But be especially careful to wear your sunglasses on sunny days even if you are planning on being outside just for a few minutes.
If you smoke and you had to make one lifestyle adjustment that would provide the maximum benefit to your future health (never mind adding to the health of everyone you spend any time with), nothing comes even close to offering you the life-enhancing benefits than stopping your smoking habit.
I’m old enough to remember when there were only 2 types of diabetes named juvenile onset diabetes (JOD) and adult onset diabetes (AOD).
Why did they have those names?
Because of when they tended to be diagnosed, so that JOD was nearly always diagnosed very early in life while AOD was never diagnosed before the age of 40.
Now, however, it’s quite different.
We now acknowledge that there are other forms of diabetes including one that comes on with pregnancy.
But the most interesting change, I think, is that we now have different names for JOD and AOD, namely Type 1 diabetes (the old JOD) and Type 2 diabetes (the old AOD).