The winter months may be a welcome reprieve from the sweltering hot Australian summers; however, they are typically a time when people fall ill, too.
Winter illnesses are as common Down Under as anywhere else in the world. The reasons are numerous, but many put it down to an immune system that is overloaded in the colder months or a general lack of exercise.
While falling ill may be unavoidable, and plenty will not require hospital treatment as a result, it is useful for many to know that they are protected by their private health insurance policies should the worst come to pass.
So, seeing as winter is coming, here are three common winter illnesses:
1) Cold and flu
The common cold is an ongoing annoyance to Australians everywhere. Meanwhile, the influenza (flu) virus can lead to more serious conditions in some cases.
There are more than 200 types of virus that cause the common cold, meaning it is near impossible to become immunised from them all. Because these are viruses and not bacterial illnesses, antibiotics are ineffective. Instead, preventative measures are necessary.
Keeping warm and drinking plenty of fluids is advised, and people with cold- or flu-like symptoms should avoid coming into contact with those not affected by it – and vice versa.
If you catch either of these common ailments, it's best to stay at home rather than mingle with others, including your doctor – although any serious or persisting symptoms should be brought to a medical professional's attention.
2) Asthma attacks
One in 10 Australians suffer from asthma, according to Western Australia's Department of Health. In the colder winter months, asthma attacks are more common and they should be managed if you have the illness.
Having a cold or the flu are the most likely causes of an attack in children, and sufferers should take care to keep an inhaler and any other prescribed medication with them at all times.
While coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath usually abate once the right medication is taken, there are symptoms of more severe or even life-threatening asthma attacks that should be noted – particularly for families with asthmatic children.
Serious symptoms include:
- Gasping for breath
- Very laboured breathing
- Signs of distress
- An inability to speak more than single words
Potentially life-threatening symptoms include:
- An inability to move around
- Being unable to speak
- The area around the lips becoming pale and/or blue
- No wheezing can be heard
Remember, if in doubt about your own or a child's condition during an asthma attack, it is best to seek medical assistance.
3) Heart attacks
Heart conditions tend to rear their ugly heads more frequently in the colder months, thought to be due to increased pressure put on the circulatory system to keep the body warm. The range of cardiovascular diseases as a whole caused 43,603 deaths in Australia in 2013, and are believed to take one life every 12 minutes Down Under, according to Heart Foundation.
This means if you suffer from such illnesses, it's important to take particular care when the temperature drops.
Eating healthily is a top tip given by the NHS in the UK, as cholesterol is a well-known cause of heart-related illness. The health care provider also recommends staying warm both at home and when out and about.
Thinking about private health insurance?
If purchasing private health insurance is something on your to-do list this year, there's plenty of incentive to shop around. On top of finding a cost-effective policy, your health insurance broker can use their knowledge to make sure you have coverage that suits you and/or your family.
To compare health insurance providers, contact HICA today on 1300 44 22 01.