Doc, why do I keep getting common cold?

common cold, recurring cold, frequent cold, flu

When you have a cold, you can easily become dehydrated,

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • The recurring colds could also be due to having allergic rhinitis. This means that you body’s immune process reacts quite strongly to some triggers like dust, strong smells and cold, causing your respiratory system to over-react.
  • This leads to sneezing, running nose and blocking of the nose.

Dr Flo,
I get common cold and running nose frequently and sometimes I feel so weak. When treated, I recover for only a short time and the cold comes back. What do I do?
Mary

Dear Mary,
The recurring colds could be an indicator that your immune system is weak. This may be due to stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, not getting enough sleep, chronic illnesses, some medications like steroid medications and chemotherapy medication. If any of these could be an issue, then addressing the root problem will lead to a stronger immune system and less colds.

The recurring colds could also be due to having allergic rhinitis. This means that you body’s immune process reacts quite strongly to some triggers like dust, strong smells and cold, causing your respiratory system to over-react. This leads to sneezing, running nose and blocking of the nose. This is usually in the genetic make-up of a person, which means it can be passed from parents to children, and it also cannot be gotten rid of. It is also associated with other allergy conditions like allergic skin rashes, allergic cough, recurrent itching of the eyes (allergic conjunctivitis) and asthma. Someone may have one or a combination of several of them. The condition cannot be cured but it can be controlled by avoiding the triggers like cold, dust, strong smells, pollen and smoke, and also by taking anti-allergy medicines or anti-histamines. Nasal sprays can also be used to control it.

Also, when you have a cold, you can easily become dehydrated, which would make you feel weak and tired. So make sure you take plenty of fluids any time you have a cold. 

Dear Doc,
My two-year old daughter fell ill a few weeks ago and her body temperature was relatively high. We took her to a clinic where a haematological test was done and the results were worrying.

1. She had a neutrophilia infection. 2. Her platelet count was lower (nine) than the required minimum (12). 3. Her general blood level was also lower than the required level.

Is there a specific medication to boost her platelet count and to boost her blood level apart from lots of vegetables and fruits in her diet? Note: She is a poor feeder and she avoids vegetables every time we give them to her. The multivitamin supplements we give her to boost appetite seem to work for a short while then the habit begins all over again. What do you advise that we do?
Distressed parent.

Dear distressed parent,
There are medications that contain iron and other blood booster components. These medications can be prescribed by your primary doctor. She also needs to take a well-balanced diet consisting of iron-rich foods like liver, kidney, meat, beans, peas, soya, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit like raisins and fortified cereals like fortified maize meal (unga ya ugali). It would also be good to do a repeat of the blood test to see the change after the infection has cleared.

By nature, many toddlers are picky eaters and their preferences vary over time. They tend to pick and choose what to take and most of the time will eventually get all the nutrients that their body needs in the course of the week. However, if the pickiness leads to nutritional deficiencies, then there is need for intervention. Poor appetite can result from having a chronic illness, using medications, psychological issues, stomach problems, hormonal changes, low activity level, eating alone, unstructured meal times and practices, not being exposed to a wide variety of meals and textures or unhealthy snacking between meals.

You can give her more of the foods that she enjoys prepared in different ways; vary the menu; prepare and present the vegetables in interesting ways; eat with family and friends; provide measured amounts of healthy snacks in between meals. Consider giving her nutritious drinks like fruit and vegetable smoothies, yoghurt, milk and fresh juice.

Dear Doc,
What is the immune system and how does it defend our bodies from invaders
Alnashir D Walji

Dear Alnashir,
The immune system is made up of tissues, cells and processes within the body that protect it from disease by providing a barrier or by fighting off what is unwanted. It is the security system in your body. Some of it is innate (you are born with it) and some of it is acquired as you encounter different threats.

Since the immune system interacts with other systems in the body, general good health contributes to a healthy immune system and vice versa. This means that to assist in optimal function of the immune system, maintain good general health – eat regular well balanced meals, exercise regularly, get adequate vitamin D, manage stress, have adequate sleep and rest, maintain a healthy weight, practise infection prevention (such as hand and food hygiene, clean drinking water and adequate food preparation), avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake, and manage any other illnesses you may have.

Lack or deficiency of micronutrients (nutrients that are required in small quantities in the body) like zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, Vitamin A, C, B6, and E may have an effect on the immune system, and a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is recommended to provide these.

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