It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely why cold
and flu season can fluctuate so much from one year to the next, which has many
of us scratching our heads, wondering what it is that causes cold and flu in
the first place.
The common cold and influenza are both viruses
that are highly contagious. The flu season usually begins in June and peaks
around August. Despite popular belief, winter doesn’t cause cold and flu. The
reason that the viruses are more prevalent during the cooler months is that
people tend to spend more time indoors around other people, increasing their
chances of contracting an infection.
Both colds and flu are primarily spread
through respiratory transfer. When someone carrying the virus coughs, sneezes,
talks or even just breathes, tiny droplets of fluid containing the virus are
launched into the air. When these droplets reach another person and come into
contact with their eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus can then spread.
These respiratory droplets can also live
outside the body for a number of hours. That means if you cough into your hand
and then pick up the phone, you are likely to contaminate the phone or other
surfaces that you may touch. This also happens with surfaces - if respiratory
droplets come into contact with a table, keyboard, or any other surfaces around
you which are then touched by another person, they will likely be infected by
This is why you often read about breakouts of
viruses in places where lots of people tend to congregate, such as nursing
homes, schools, and office buildings.
That’s why it’s so important to stay home and
isolate yourself from others if you think you may be coming down with a cold or
the flu. Even by spending a few hours in the office or on public transport, you
are putting many other people at risk of catching your infection, who may pass
it on to others.
The first few days of the virus are when
you’re the most contagious, even before you feel symptoms. But any time that
you are showing symptoms, especially coughing, sneezing or runny nose, you are
at risk of spreading the virus to others.
Even if you have what you consider to be a
mild cold, with symptoms that aren’t particularly bad, you are still contagious
and can spread the infection to other people whose immune systems may not be
able to protect them and can develop a severe cold. There are some people in
the community who are especially at risk of developing serious complications
from the flu, such as pneumonia that can cause hospitalisation or even death.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and
the community against the spread of the flu, in particular, is to get yourself
vaccinated. Once you get the flu vaccination, you are less likely to catch the
virus. The more people in the community who are vaccinated, the better the chance
of reducing the spread of the flu. Peak season for influenza usually occurs in
September, and it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to start. To get you
and your family vaccinated, simply pop into your local participating Capital
Chemist, and your pharmacist can often vaccinate you on the spot.
If you do come down with a cold or flu, your
Capital Chemist pharmacist can issue a workplace leave certificate. All you
need to do is pop in-store for a short consultation (a fee will be charged).
Remember, pharmacists can only issue certificates for short-term, self-limiting
illnesses. Strict conditions apply, to find out more or chat to your local Capital Chemist.