Friday December 14, 2018

Common cold and swine flu: Some common tips


By Dr JK Bhutani

Our respiratory system is formed by the airways or air passages and the lungs. The airways play an important role in the conditioning of air to the appropriate healthy temperature in a variety of environments. The airways also humidify, filter and remove various particulate pollutants and pollen present in the air. The lungs work best when the airways are able to provide a clean, conditioned, warm and humid air for them.

COMMON COLD – Every year before the onset of winter, the human body prepares itself for the harsh ‘cold-dry-wintry’ air by shedding the old respiratory airway mucosa and other defense cells and getting a new set. The nature perhaps helps, by sending some common viruses, (Rhino and Adeno Viruses) to hasten this process of changeover. This intervention by the nature sometimes leads to issues like sneezing, running-stuffy nose (rhinorrhoea), sore throat, cough, low-grade fever, headache and body aches. The term ‘common cold’ refers to such mild upper respiratory viral infections which, in a way, are the nature’s way of shedding the old cells and rejuvenating the respiratory airways with the new army of defence cells to last for adverse onslaughts of winter weather. Such ‘non-Influenza’ viral respiratory infections are innocuous and require simple common-sense tips on the part of the patient to manage the same.

1. Symptomatic treatment remains the mainstay of common cold treatment. In the absence of convincing evidence of a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics are not effective in the treatment of the common cold and should be avoided. Even analgesics (pain-killers) and anti-pyretic (fever medicine) can be avoided and adequate rest, hot-fluids, steam and good

nutrition must be the preferred way to go. Most patients do not require any intervention as the illness is brief (3-5 days) and self-limiting. The role of the medical personnel / help should be of a facilitator of the natural healing and s/he must ensure renewal of ability of the human organism in such settings.

2. The common over-the-counter available ‘decongestants-anti-histamine’ combinations (Vikoryl, Recofast, Coldrin etc.) generally hamper the clearance of secretions and nasal debris of cells and should be best avoided. They may block or thicken the secretions, thus predisposing to super-added bacterial infections of throat, sinuses and the ear.

3. PREVENTION of common cold – No vitamin, nutritional supplements, probiotics, Face-masks or herbal product have been shown to impact the incidence or the outcomes of common cold. Additionally, Adenovirus vaccines have not been found effective in protecting against the common cold. Hygienic measures such as hand washing and clean unclogged airways can hasten recovery and prevent the spread of respiratory viruses in closed environs.


Swine-Flu or H1N1 influenza (‘swine influenza’) is another respiratory viral infection which strikes like a ‘common-cold’ infection but is more sinister in symptoms and the outcomes. The influenza virus mutates extremely fast and is highly infectious. The typical symptoms of Swine-flu are cough, sore-throat, fever, headache chills and fatigue. The severe infections, especially in patients who have co-morbid conditions like Diabetes, Heart disease, Asthma/COPD, compromised immune system and old age, may also include blue lips, blood in sputum, difficulty in breathing, pneumonia and respiratory failure.

The spread of Swine-Flu is very rapid and epidemic. The people having flu infection, on move or at home, often cough or sneeze, thus spraying tiny drops of the virus into the air. When a person comes in contact with these drops or touches a surface (such as a wall, door, tap, sink or any articles like phone/keyboard etc) that an infected person has recently touched, the infection spreads.

Despite the name, one cannot catch swine flu from eating bacon, ham, or any other pork product.

The diagnosis of swine flu is often on strong suspicion, after contact with a proved patient and when the severity of cold symptoms is turning worse and ominous. The H1N1 influenza virus detection by polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) or culture is the only proven method used by the government approved labs. Certain rapid influenza antigen tests are also commercially available which can give result in 4hrs.

Treatment – The milder infections in apparently healthy individuals can be managed with bed rest, warm fluids, proper nutrition and symptomatic treatment with analgesics (pain-killers) and anti-pyretic (fever) drugs. The mainstay is to isolate the patient at home for mild cases and in hospital for the serious cases, to halt the spread of disease. Proper hand-nose hygiene and the disposal of wipes containing nasal secretions are equally important. The use of the antiviral drugs like Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is avoided in milder cases and should be best guided by the medical personnel’s advice. The close contacts of the proved Swine flu cases and the vulnerable exposed people can have prophylactic treatment in up to 48 hrs of exposure, after medical advice. Excessive use of such drugs when not required is already causing drug resistance and should be best avoided. The serious patients having pneumonia or other complications are best managed in hospital setting.

Prevention – The best treatment for Swine-flu is to have the vaccine before the onset of the winter season. The CDC and other national bodies recommend the vaccine for use in ages 6 months to the elderly (65 plus) including pregnant woman. High-risk individuals, their close contacts, and healthcare workers should remain high-priority populations in vaccination campaigns. The vaccine is safe, effective and has minimal side effects at the time of delivery. The vaccine can be administered in the muscle (intra-muscular injection), skin (intra-dermal injection) or the nasal inhalation route. The popular vaccines available in India are Fluair, Nasovac, Fluarix, Influvac  and Vaxigrip. The choice of vaccine formulation depends upon several factors, including age, comorbidities, pregnancy and risk of adverse reactions and the options should be discussed with the physician.

H1N1 influenza vaccine is already popular as FLU-SHOT in the west and shall soon have universal acceptance in India too. The governments are trying to bring down the costs (from Rs 600 to 100), to make it affordable for all. The Flu-shot needs to be given annually as the virus of swine-flu is quick to ‘shift and drift’ its structure, necessitating the new vaccine which is made available to the world every year around August-Sept.

Last year’s Swine flu outbreak in India showed inadequate preparedness, poor testing facilities and non-availability of drugs and vaccines. The number of deaths was 2123 out of the total number of 34656 cases reported by the health ministry. This year, the government is geared up and the Delhi government has already provisioned for isolation beds in hospitals (both govt and private), adequate Tamiflu and vaccines stocks and use of media for education/prevention. The government is using media for awareness of hand-hygiene and plans a sanitation awareness drive for a month starting from Oct-15 to Nov-14. The burden of the morbidity and mortality of the Swine flu can be negligible if all the citizens practice good hand-nose hygiene and implement other common sense measures of sanitation. It is not too much to ask for, at least from the Delhi residents who have one of the highest literacy rates in India.

Dr J.K. Bhutani MD is a protagonist of preventive and promotive health care based on austere biology and facilitating self healing powers of human organism.
You can follow him at


Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

Next Story

Swine Flu Guide: All You Need to Know about the Global Pandemic Disease!

Around 8,648 Swine Flu cases were reported and 345 deaths were caused by Swine Flu till May 7, 2017

Symptoms of Swine Flu
Symptoms of Swine Flu. Wikimedia
  • Swine flu is a disease that attacks the respiratory tract of pigs, is caused by influenza viruses
  • The first time when Swine Flu was identified in humans was in the year 2009 in Mexico
  • Consult your doctor if you think you are at a higher risk of acquiring this infection

New Delhi (India), Aug 22, 2017: Swine Flu can get transferred from one person to another. Thus, it creates a panic situation whenever a single person is infected with this disease. To avoid catching this disease we can take some precautions.

As per the data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare India- there has been 8,648 Swine Flu cases and 345 deaths caused by this disease till May 7, 2017. There were 1,786 Swine Flu cases and 265 deaths caused by it in 2016. Till May 7, Tamil Nadu alone has had 2,798 cases of it, 181 and 130 people suffered at the hands of this disease in Maharashtra and Gujarat respectively.  The worst years for Swine Flu outbreak in India were 2009-10 when it affected almost 50,000 people and took more than 2,700 lives across the country.

According to ANI report, some important guidelines on diagnosis of  Swine Flu are given below. We have also mentioned the steps one should take if they catch Swine Flu and other crucial pointers which you don’t want to miss.

What is Swine Flu?

Swine flu is a disease that attacks the respiratory tract of pigs, is caused by influenza viruses. The symptoms shown by an infected animal are barking cough, decreased appetite, listless behavior and nasal secretions. The virus can mutate and get easily transmissible in humans.

Also Read: 40 swine flu cases in Delhi already in 2016

Where did it originate from?

The first time when Swine Flu was identified in humans was in the year 2009 in Mexico. After a few months, the very first of the swine flu cases were reported; slowly the rate, at which H1N1-related illness started spreading, was increasing around the globe. As a result, in August 2010 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the infection ‘a global pandemic’ (a disease prevalent all over the world).

Even now, H1N1 has not stopped spreading is still getting circulated in humans, as a ‘seasonal flu virus’ and protection against this strain was thus included in seasonal flu vaccines. More recently, another strain, H3N2 infected humans in 2011.

What is the time period till this disease lasts?

Generally, the incubation period of a swine flu virus is between 3 to 7 days but if one catches a serious infection it can last about 9 or even 10 days.

What are the symptoms?

H1N1 flu symptoms take some time to develop, it takes around 1 to 3 days in humans. This is after they are exposed to the virus.

Some Common symptoms are:

  • Body Ache
  • In some cases Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Watery or red eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • vomiting

Also Read: Are you safe? Swine Flu virus mutates in India, becomes more lethal, says MIT study

Is Vaccination possible and available?

If you want to reduce the risk of contracting the influenza virus, it can be done through vaccinations. Consult your doctor if you think you are at a higher risk of acquiring this infection. The need to get vaccinated increases if one is traveling to a place where many cases have been recently reported.

The High-risk groups are:

  • Children: who are younger than 5 yrs of age, especially those who are younger than 2 yrs
  • Senior citizens: Those 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women: who are within 2 weeks of delivery, including those women who have had a miscarriage
  • Chronic Medical Conditions: People suffering from it. Chronic Medical Conditions like heart disease, diabetes asthma, kidney, liver or blood disease, emphysema and neuromuscular disease
  • Those who are immunosuppressed (reduction of the activation or efficacy of the immune system) due to some particular medications or because of HIV

How to get it Diagnosed?

If you want to get it diagnosed, it can be done by taking a nose or throat swab. This should be done within the first 5 days of the illness, this being the most infectious period of the disease. Only a few labs are authorized to conduct Swine Flu tests. The Swab results take 8 to 24 hours, after seeing the results and consulting the doctor, the patient will know if he/she has this disease. Some labs are well equipped with a skilled technician if you prefer a home collection of the sample. “The expert team of pathologists is also able to guide clinicians and patients for report analysis and queries surrounding swine flu diagnosis,” mentions ANI report.

Apart from taking vaccines and getting tested for Swine Flu. One of the easiest ways to prevent catching swine flu is by maintaining a basic hygiene routine which includes washing your hands on a regular basis.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.
Click here-