When Sharing Isn’t Caring: A Beginner’s Guide to Contagious Diseases - Aussie Pharmacy

The old adage that sharing is caring probably doesn’t extend to contagious diseases. I often find that people tend to overestimate their own capacity to fight off the everyday infections which are knocking at the door. Today, I am going to take a walk (at a distance of course) through some of the more common contagious infections that you might be exposed to in Australia. For convenience sake, I have left out some of the more unusual kinds you might if you are travelling off the beaten path.

  • COVID-19

Look… I probably don’t need to say much here. You know all about it, and you know how to minimise your chances of picking up an infection from someone else. A quality mask, staying outdoors where possible, and good hygiene. Moving on!

  • Norovirus

This is sometimes lazily called food poisoning, which kind of undercuts the fact that it can be caught from others. The norovirus causes inflammation and swelling in your gut, which then shows up as diarrhoea, nausea and general abdominal pain. You can pick it up yourself if you end up having to clean up said vomit or diarrhoea, or if you were to eat food which contains particles of the virus. The good news is that you can cut down your risk of contamination in the exact same way you would protect yourself from COVID: good hygiene! If you aren’t protecting yourself from COVID, all I can do is wish you the best of luck. From a safe distance.

  • Influenza

Again, we aren’t great at talking about the flu. Most people simply presume that if a common cold gets bad enough it must be ‘the flu!’ In actual fact, they are entirely different diseases. It is almost like having a runny nose and wondering if it will develop into a pulled hamstring. A doctor will need to diagnose you with the flu, but you’ll be feeling the chills, a sore throat, alternating runny and blocked nose, aches and tiredness. Sounding a bit like a broken record here, but good hygienic practices will keep you on the straight and narrow here: Wash your hands regularly!

  • Meningitis

Here is where we move slightly into the unknown. Meningitis is when the protective membranes around your spinal cord and brain become inflamed. Obviously, these are pretty important parts of your body, and in terrible cases, it can cause brain damage and hearing loss. Early warning signs of bacterial meningitis include nausea, sensitivity to light and a sense of confusion. Best way to avoid it is to… you guessed it, practise good hygiene! The bacteria spreads through mucus and saliva, so common practices involve kissing or sharing knives and forks. There are vaccines and antibiotics which fight the bacteria, and if you feel symptoms, time is of the essence. Go straight to emergency.

  • Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

This is probably one that doesn’t come up too often until you have children. Then it dominates your every thought the moment you turn up to a playground. Symptoms of HFMD start as a fever and a sore throat, before blossoming into mouth sores, rashes on the hands, feet, knees, elbows and bum (I guess they decided HFMKEB disease didn’t roll off the tongue quite so well).  You pick it up by coming into contact with the pusy blister fluid of an infected person. Because these are on the hands and feet, it tends to spread like wildfire at playgrounds. And if your kid infects all of your friends’ kids, you’d best find some new friends. Sadly, there isn’t much you can do except some treatments that relieve the fevers and pain.

  • Whooping cough

Staying on the kid page for a second, whooping cough is a big deal. Its official name is Pertussis, and it is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It causes coughing fits which are uncontrollable. As you struggle to breathe, you make a whooping noise which is one of your first giveaways. It is actually incredibly dangerous for children under one years old. The only way to make sure you aren’t posing a risk to a little one in your life is to get immunised. If in doubt, call your doctor. The immunity fades after ten years, and it tends to be the kind of thing that expires without you noticing.

  • Cold sores

This one is a bit of a doozy. A cold sore is actually the same infection as genital herpes. If you are currently suffering from a cold sore, that piece of news provides absolutely no comfort. It gets worse though: Once you have the herpes disease, it stays in your system forever. It can come back when you’re under stress or sudden changes of weather. OK, enough bad news, there is some hope. Zovirax cold sore cream stops the cell from multiplying and spreading across your face. Better still, Zovirax cold sore cream cuts the amount of time a blister will be showing on your face in half. So, sure, you will always have the disease in your system, but you don’t need to wear it on your face. Browse our range of zovirax cold sore cream today!

  • STIs

Here’s the thing about STIs: They are much more common than you think. If you receive a diagnosis of chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis etc, it is easy to feel like you’re the exception. In reality, almost 1 in 5 Australians will have an STI at some point in their lives. That said, they can be serious, leading to cancer and infertility, so it is always a good idea to seek medical help if you suspect you might have picked something up. General rule of thumb is that a condom will protect you from most of the nasty ones. But the best way to avoid an STI is to have open honest conversations with your sexual partners.

There you have it. A contiki tour of all the contagions that you could pick up in your neighbourhood. Good luck!

Catch you later!

Floyd.  Pharmacist


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