It’s the start of Spring and if you’re lucky you’ve escaped the long winter without a bout of the flu. But if you’re one of the millions who weren’t so lucky this flu season, you could be forgiven for feeling tired and rundown in the weeks following your illness.
It’s when we’re in this rundown state that some of the less serious ailments that cold and flu can trigger strike.
Cold sores and mouth ulcers are certainly not a great reward after days of coughing, aches and pain, but an unfortunate reality of a weakened immune system.
The virus that causes cold sores is known as the herpes simplex virus or HSV. There are two types of HSV, Type 1 and Type 2 and cold sores are caused by Type 1.
Cold sores are caused by a contagious oral virus and spread from person to person by kissing or some other contact with sores but a person infected with HSV can pass it on even when a cold sore is not active.
They start as small, red bumps on or around the lips that eventually turn into fluid-filled blisters. Once you’re infected with HSV, the virus enters your system and can remain dormant until it is triggered or reactivated.
Stress, changes in the immune system, fever, colds and the flu are just some of the ways a cold sore is reactivated.
When cold sores are reactivated, the blister stage is usually short. Blisters dry up and leave scabs that can last from a day to several days.
There are ways to treat cold sores, particularly if they are painful. There are a number of topical creams and ointments available with or without a prescription that can reduce pain, itching, and healing time.
Oral antiviral medicines available from your doctor by prescription can be used when the first symptoms (such as burning or itching) begin.
Mouth ulcers are round, tender sores that develop on the inside of the mouth. In most cases mouth ulcers are harmless and clear up in a few days. They often kick off with a tingling, followed by a painful red spot that blisters or ulcerates. The centre of an ulcer often turns white.
The cause of mouth ulcers is largely unknown. Some people appear to be more susceptible than others and this may be linked to anything from genetic makeup, stress, dietary factors, hormonal imbalances or weaknesses in the immune system.
To ease the discomfort from mouth ulcers, try gargling with salty water or a mild mouthwash, and maintaining good oral hygiene by regularly brushing and flossing your teeth.
Strengthening Your Immune System
Flu comes in many varieties now and the severity of flu should never be underestimated. Assuming you’re one of the millions who has been struck down this winter, particularly with a nasty bout, you will probably be feeling rundown. There are simple ways, though, to build yourself up after illness.
- Make sure you’re eating a good, balanced diet. Flu can rob your body of nutrients and vitamins, particularly if your stomach has been upset or you’ve not been eating well. Make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables each day, along with a range of foods from five food groups.
- Take a vitamin and mineral supplement. It’s a great head start after you’ve been sick.
- Drink plenty of water and keep your body well-hydrated as flu can leave you with low fluid levels.
- Get plenty of sleep and allow your body to recover and restore itself.
- Some gentle exercise, without pushing yourself too hard, can help boost your fitness levels after illness.
- Stress less. If you’re not feeling 100%, then pace yourself. Avoid the known stress points in your life. Give yourself a break and if you can’t avoid the things that stress you out, try a different approach.
But remember if you’re not feeling yourself and are in need of professional advice, talk to someone at your Aboriginal Medical Centre or see your local doctor.