Commonwealth Games athletes and spectators warned about the potential of cold and flu outbreak

With reports coming in that several people at the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village are receiving medical treatment for the flu, local Gold Coast pharmacist, Matthew Bellgrove is urging all Games punters, both spectators and athletes alike, not to be complacent when it comes to infection prevention.

Matthew Bellgrove, Head Pharmacist at National Custom Compounding at Merrimac, said the huge influx of people congregating in relatively small areas, combined with the change in the season and the sharp turn in the weather created a ‘perfect storm’ for a cold and flu outbreak.

“We see it at the annual Show every year,” Mr Bellgrove said, “And there’s every chance it will happen at the Games. Big crowds in close proximity in venues, on public transport and even out in the open create ideal conditions for virus transference.”

Along with the flu vaccine, Mr Bellgrove said there were many things people could do to avoid catching a virus that didn’t involve that dreaded word, ‘doping’.

“There are lots of medications on the market, however for Games athletes wanting to pass their drug test, most are definitely off the table. And it’s not just athletes – more and more people these days would prefer to avoid colds and flus, or at least reduce the severity, using methods that don’t involve drugs and medications. You want to enjoy the Games atmosphere, not feel groggy from all the medication you’ve been taking.”

Mr Bellgrove makes a number of recommendations for drug-free cold and flu prevention including:

Taking your vitamins. Most people are familiar with the association between Vitamin C and the prevention of colds and flus. While studies have not been able to show that high level Vitamin C reduces the incidence of colds, they have shown that it greatly reduces the severity and duration of illness. A review of the evidence conducted by the Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Disease studied 21 clinical trials and in each of the 21 studies, vitamin C reduced the duration of episodes and the severity of the symptoms of the common cold by an average of 23%.

Practice good hygiene. It seems simple, but in practice not many people follow the principles of good hygiene. Viruses are spread through aerosol droplets entering the air when someone sneezes and falling on nearby surfaces – surfaces that healthy people then touch. When possible take a wide berth around people sneezing or coughing in crowds and wash your hands regularly, especially before eating. Make sure the kids follow your lead also – their sticky fingers will no doubt have been more places than yours!

Good old garlic. As well as keeping your house Vampire-free, garlic has also been shown to stave off the incidence and severity of colds. When crushed, garlic releases a compound called allicin – it’s what gives garlic it’s garlicy smell – and it’s this compound that does all the good work. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants taking allicin-containing garlic supplements reported ‘significantly fewer colds than the placebo group’ and for those that did get colds they ‘recovered faster.’ The amount of allicin taken daily was the equivalent of approximately 20 cloves of garlic, so unless you really like Italian, Matthew recommends the supplement!

Stay warm and dry. That might be easier said than done with Cyclone Iris threatening to rain on our Commonwealth Games parade! However medical researchers believe that staying warm and dry can prevent virus infection by keeping the blood vessels in the nose plump and moist. During very cold conditions the blood vessels in the nose narrow reducing blood flow and when there is less blood flowing, the cold and flu virus multiplies faster.