The countdown to the end-of-year summer break has begun, but it’s also the season when many South Africans fall prey to tummy bugs, unexpected colds, migraines and other nasties which can spoil the holiday fun.
Alisha Mackintosh, Allergy and Immunity Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics says it’s likely that certain changes in our routine may be to blame.
“During the holidays we travel more, eat out-, shop- and party more. We stay up late and are perhaps a little more relaxed about hygiene, which can weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to viruses and bacteria.”
Understanding why we get sick will help us to avoid the common triggers over the holidays. Macintosh says we should be wary of:
1. Eating too much sugar. It’s the time of year when many give in to festive season temptations that are often laden with sugar without realising that this weakens white blood cells. The effect can last for several hours after ingesting sugary food or drinks. If you’re consuming sweet things throughout the day it means that your immune system may continuously be operating at a distinct disadvantage.
2. Drinking too much alcohol. The holidays are synonymous with parties and alcohol, but too much booze can inhibit the body’s ability to fight infection, so rather drink in moderation.
3. Staying up late. Partying or catching up on Netflix until the wee hours of the night and getting up later in the mornings can trigger migraines. Sticking to healthy sleep habits and getting eight hours of sleep can reduce the frequency of headaches by 29% and the intensity by 40%.
4. Holiday shopping. When on holiday, we tend to shop more, which means we’re handling and drawing cash more than usual. Money carries about 3 000 different types of bacteria that can lead to all sorts of illnesses. Always wipe shopping trolleys and surfaces with sanitising wipes before touching it or wash your hands afterwards.
5. Travelling by plane. Some studies have found that flying heightens our risk of catching a cold by 80%. Sitting in close quarters for a long flight might be partially to blame, but we typically push ourselves to meet all the last-minute deadlines before going on holiday, which puts a strain on our immune system. Consider boosting your immunity before a plane flight by getting enough rest, eating healthily and managing stress. Taking an immune-boosting supplement is also recommended. Look out for supplements that contain vitamin C, zinc and Echinacea, such as Efferflu C to keep the common cold at bay.
6. Dirty air conditioners. As the mercury rises during the holidays, the more we’ll be making use of air conditioning units in the car and house to cool down, but if it hasn’t been cleaned regularly, it could be harbouring harmful bacteria that can affect those with compromised immune systems. It’s recommended that air conditioning systems get debugged at least every two years.
7. Too many holiday demands. Securing the house before going away on holiday, hosting and accommodating family, getting all the shopping done etc could all increase your stress load, which doesn’t do your immune system any good. Be aware of these stressors and take steps to better manage the demands that are placed on you to make the holiday season less challenging.
8. Crowds. Holidays mean more crowds no matter where you go and airborne germs thrive in crowded environments, which heightens one’s risk of getting sick. When finding yourself in a high-risk environment, try Nexa Travelshied – a natural nasal spray which coats the nasal membrane, trapping viruses and other airborne allergens to keep you healthy.
“Other common illnesses that holidaymakers often pick up include fever, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, giardiasis (infection of the small intestine), skin or soft tissue infections. Proper hygiene practices are of paramount importance and never consume food or water from places where the risk of contamination is high.”
“Apart from plasters and Burnshield, your holiday first-aid kit should always include sunscreen, mosquito repellent, antibacterial cream, antihistamines, eye drops, pain medication and medicine to help with stomach cramps and nausea – as these ailments are likely to surface during the holidays,” she advises.