Beware of the Risks of Crossing Diseases

Internists and personal physicians of Health+, MUDr. Gabriele Kováčik and MUDr. Hana Sýkorová, revealed why it is necessary to observe the treatment and recovery period and what the risks are if a disease is underestimated.

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Colds, flu or respiratory diseases are considered mild illnesses, which is why many people often overlook them. What health complications can they face because of this?
GK: First of all, the disease takes longer to get better than if they treat it properly. If a person is not cured and goes to work, their work performance suffers anyway. They’re half sick and half working, but they’re not doing either thing properly. And the human body can't do both at the same time, it overloads itself and this can bring many serious problems. For example, various inflammations of the heart muscles or the nervous system, such as post-viral disability in the form of inflammation of the nerves in the face, can arise from the passage of illness. Some of the serious complications can be life-threatening or cause lifelong consequences. For example, inflammation of the heart muscle is a lifelong disease and will only arise if a person doesn’t want to sacrifice a week of time for complete recovery.

HS: People who are going through illnesses are often surprised that the illness comes back and they keep saying they have a virus every month and they are still sick. This may be because they don't give themselves time to fully heal and recover, the body's immunity is then weakened and it succumbs more easily to other illnesses. A bacterial infection may follow the initial viral illness. A person starts with nasopharyngitis and ends up with pneumonia. Respiratory infections can also trigger prolonged coughing to asthmatic symptoms. Tonsillitis when not treated properly can also lead to autoimmune inflammation of the kidneys and have other serious health consequences.

Does the high risk apply only to selected at-risk groups or is it general?
HS: Although young people usually tolerate the course of infection better, and may get the impression that nothing so dramatic will happen by passing on viruses or flu, this is the very mistake that leads to possible complications. Of course, in the elderly and in chronically ill patients (such as cardiac patients, diabetics, patients with chronic lung diseases) we can expect a longer and more complicated course of acute infection. For example, in cardiac patients, infection can trigger the development of arrhythmias, heart failure. Ultimately, this can lead to hospitalization and unfortunately sometimes to direct life-threatening conditions.

GK: It's definitely not just for at-risk groups like the chronically ill or the elderly. Those are even more likely to handle the eventual disease correctly, because they are repeatedly warned by doctors that crossing diseases causes serious complications. I perceive a greater risk in this case for managers who think they have to go for 100% performance, that they are indispensable... With them I have often encountered serious complications just after overcoming a common illness, which then often put them out of work for long weeks or months.

So what is the right course of action when one feels the first signs of illness, so as not to underestimate anything? Is it necessary to rush to a doctor right away, or can appropriate self-treatment help?
GK: Self-treatment may be sufficient for colds and minor illnesses, but it is important to slow down and rest at the first signs of illness, to keep an eye on your temperature, drink enough and take vitamins, or take something for a cough or cold if necessary. And if the symptoms do not subside by the second or third day and the condition worsens, it is always best to see a doctor.

HS: I believe the best thing to do is actually bed rest, make tea with lemon, take vitamins, etc. Resting is the most important thing of all in my opinion. With a virus, staying home for at least a week is ideal. Lowering temperatures of up to 38°C is not recommended, as they help the body fight the illness. However, a fever above 38 °C is an unreasonable burden on the body, so it must be brought down with antipyretic drugs such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen, and preferably by seeing a doctor. However, people often make the mistake of lowering even low temperatures and when they get below 37°C they feel better and are convinced they can return to work immediately. But they shouldn't, because they are not completely cured and the illness can easily return.

How long should the treatment or recovery take to be sure that the person has really overcome the disease? Because I reckon two or three days won't be enough…
HS: The time needed for recovery and convalescence cannot be completely generalized, but it can be said that in the case of a virus, at least a week of rest is advisable, preferably bed rest, followed by a week or so of reduced sporting activities. When children become ill, it is also best for parents to leave them at home for 10 days and to exempt them from PE for 14 days. But adults stay at home for a maximum of two or three days, then rush to work and go full bore. More generally, even in the case of minor illnesses, it is a good idea to properly recover and not risk unnecessarily unpleasant health consequences.

GK: Treatment and recovery can take a different amount of time for each person, but the body usually tells you. After an acute illness with temperature, usually the illness ends the moment the temperature subsides. But even after that, one should spare the body and follow the convalescence regime, i.e., as with children, limit active sports and do not overexert yourself, because the body does not have the strength for it yet. If the body is overloaded for a long time, the unpleasant complications and symptoms we have mentioned may start to appear.

What about colds and saunas? Or another popular Czech recipe, a shot of alcohol in your tea? Can this help with colds and other winter illnesses, or is it, on the contrary, an excessive burden on the body?
GK: If someone has proven that a sauna helps them with a cold, they should allow themselves a shorter stay in the sauna, but nothing should be overdone. A shot in the tea has a certain justification for a cold, and grog warms you up nicely, but you certainly can't apply it to everyone all the time. And each time it depends on the number of shots, one should definitely not overdo it. But definitely don't take these treatments as medically recommended... (laughs)

HS: I wouldn't recommend the sauna at the stage of a definite infection because it can be too much of a strain on the body, just like the summer sun. However, it can be recommended for example during a cold, when a hot bath or sauna can be beneficial and completely warm up the body. But it always depends on one's previous sauna experience. If someone has never been in a sauna and does not know how they will react, I would not recommend it. I feel the same way with a shot in tea. When a person's throat starts to scratch, it can work as a topical disinfectant, and it can be a useful means of warming the body when one has a cold. However, only strong alcohol above 40 percent (in small amounts) can be used as a topical disinfectant, and it is definitely not advisable to repeat the shot glass "treatment". Otherwise, alcohol does not help in the treatment of diseases, quite the opposite. It is a burden on the body, it dries out the mucous membranes and dehydrates, so it can worsen the course of the disease.

And how does the passage of diseases affect the emergence of various respiratory epidemics?
GK: Viruses are transmitted by exhaled air, so when you sneeze in the company of other people, they are passed on. And the closer people are in a space, the greater the risk of spread, as well as in unventilated rooms and when there is a high concentration of people in one place, for example in public transport, shopping centers and so on, where the likelihood of infection is quite high.

HS: When we are sick and we go to work on a regular basis, of course it's not just about us anymore, it's about the fact that we can infect people around us, because droplet infection spreads very easily. It is recommended not to sneeze into your hands at least, but into a handkerchief, but still the infection spreads to the surrounding area. So, if we want to be considerate of our colleagues, we shouldn't go to work with a cold. And this especially applies to healthcare workers...

Thank you for the interview.


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