Ask the Pharmacist Winter Edition

Q: How can I prevent getting a cold this winter?

A: The common cold is an upper respiratory tract infection caused by a virus. There are over 200 types of viruses that can cause the common cold and this is why it is difficult to develop a vaccine to prevent it.

Colds are spread more easily in Winter months because they thrive in colder, less humid environments. This is why in Australia cold infections are most likely to occur between May and September.

The common cold is highly contagious and spread by direct contact or droplet transmission (small particles of the virus are coughed or sneezed into the air). Colds are typically most contagious during the first 2–3 days but may be passed on to others up to a week later.

You can reduce the risk of getting a cold this Winter by reducing your exposure to the cold viruses. Wash your hands regularly, avoid crowds and sick people and disinfect surfaces. Having a healthy lifestyle can also help prevent you from getting a cold. So, ensure you are eating and sleeping well, reduce stress, stop smoking, and partake in regular moderate exercise.

There is no cure for the common cold but if you succumb to one this Winter your National Pharmacies pharmacist can recommend treatments to alleviate the symptoms that will make you feel better and get you up and about again.

Robyn Johns, Senior Pharmacist, National Pharmacies

Q: As a vegetarian, is iron and vitamin B as important as they say? How can I ensure I am getting enough in my diet?

A: Iron is required to make haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells used to transport oxygen around the body. A lack of iron leads to a reduction in the production of haemoglobin and therefore, a reduction of oxygen carried in red blood cells. Vitamin B12, as well as other B vitamins are vital in the formation and growth of red blood cells. Iron and vitamin B12 (cobalamin), typically found in red meat, are two examples of nutrients that vegetarians can be deficient. A deficiency of one or the other can lead to anaemia, a reduction in red blood cells which can cause lethargy, pale skin and breathlessness.

Many vitamins and minerals can be found in everyday foods. For vegetarians, their diet can lack essential vitamins and minerals required for the body to function. A good source of iron for vegetarians include dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, while B12 vitamins can be found in dairy products and eggs. These vitamins and minerals should ideally come from your diet, however, supplements can be used to increase these levels if required. Always speak to your doctor first as too much iron in the body can lead to negative side effects. However, if you need a supplement to increase your iron intake, a National Pharmacies pharmacist can advise which one is best for you.

Ian Truong, Pharmacist Practice Manager, National Pharmacies Adelaide

Q: What kinds of foods should I be eating during winter to strengthen my immune system?

A: To maintain a strong immune system throughout Winter, you should consume a wide range of citrus fruits (oranges and lemons) and vegetables (capsicum and broccoli), especially those that are high in vitamin C. Also, having enough zinc found in lean meat, fish and poultry, as well as wholegrain cereals, legumes and dairy foods or nuts is vital to maintain a healthy immune system. Yoghurt is also well-known for its immune boosting properties.

Avril Ong, Pharmacist, National Pharmacies Norwood


The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and should be used as a guide only. This information does not replace or substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before any action is taken based on the content of this webpage.

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