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Colds and flu

Colds are viral infections of the nose and throat. Colds can go on to involve the sinuses, ears, larynx (vocal cords), trachea and bronchi directly or through secondary effects.

The presence of the virus causes inflammation of membrane linings in the nose, so that there is swelling with obstruction (stuffiness) and increased mucous secretions.

One to three days after exposure, a cold begins with a sore throat, discomfort in the nose, and sneezing. This is soon followed by a running nose and feeling unwell.

Colds are the most common type of respiratory infection. They’re usually mild illnesses that naturally come to an end, only occasionally leading to further problems.

Flu, or influenza, is a viral illness that occurs predominantly in the winter months in South Africa. It’s easily confused with the common cold, which is also a winter viral illness, although caused by other viruses.

Flu spreads easily from person to person through droplet distribution when an infected person coughs or sneezes or, quite commonly, through hand-to-hand contact.

Symptoms can occur abruptly, and it’s sometimes possible to pinpoint the exact hour of the day that symptoms began.

Influenza viruses can infect the nose, throat, sinuses, upper airways and lungs. In healthy children, young adults and middle-aged people, the disease is mostly mild


Your blood pressure (BP) is the pressure within your blood vessels. This pressure is generated by the contraction of the heart and counteracted by the resistance of the small arteries. BP is essential to life. It keeps the blood flowing through your body and provides oxygen and energy to your organs.

Your BP is strictly regulated, as too low pressure causes dizziness, fainting, and a lack of oxygen to your organs. In fact, when a doctor uses the term “shock”, it usually implies that there’s been a drastic drop in blood pressure, leading to inadequate blood flow through the body (perfusion) and insufficient oxygenation of vital organs like the brain and kidneys.

Starved from their life-giving source of oxygen, these organs cannot function anymore, and you’re at risk of dying – unless corrective treatment is taken.


Heartburn can be described as a feeling of discomfort, burning or pain behind the breastbone, near the heart (hence the term “heartburn”, even though the heart isn’t involved).

This uncomfortable feeling appears to rise from the stomach up towards or into the throat, and typically occurs after eating a meal. Heartburn is often accompanied by reflux, the regurgitation of stomach acid (also called “gastric juice”) into the oesophagus (the body’s feeding pipe). The acid can burn the delicate lining of the oesophagus and leave a bitter or sour taste in the mouth.

Heartburn can be a sign of an underlying problem or disease. This nagging symptom becomes pathological when it starts to impair your quality of life or if complications occur.

Chronic heartburn is usually the result of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), a condition in which the volume of stomach contents that refluxes into the oesophagus exceeds the normal, healthy limit. This condition requires long-term treatment and can lead to serious complications.


Haemorrhoids develop when veins in the anal canal and lower rectum become abnormally swollen – a result of increased pressure in the area.

Haemorrhoids can develop inside the lower rectum (internal) or near the opening of the anus (external), under the skin.

Blood can pool under the skin and a painful lump can develop. This is called a clotted or thrombosed haemorrhoid.


A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain bursts or becomes blocked by a blood clot. Blood clots cause destruction and swelling and often cause immediate severe neurological deficits.

If a stroke patient survives, neurological damage may substantially improve with time as the blood clot is absorbed. More commonly, if a blood vessel is blocked, cells are deprived of oxygen and die. This is known as an infarction. As a result, the part of the body controlled by those cells can no longer function properly.

Like a heart attack, a stroke requires immediate medical treatment when symptoms are noticed. In some cases, specific treatment can reduce the number of brain cells that are permanently damaged by the stroke.

The effects of a stroke depend on a number of factors, such as the extent of the brain damage and the area of the brain that is affected.

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