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Stress and change often bring the beginning of tummy bugs, unexpected colds, migraines and other nasties in both children and adults. As does the return to school and the classroom.

Globally, children have been affected by physical distancing, quarantines and nationwide school closures; a result of COVID-19. Some children and young people may be feeling more isolated, anxious, bored and uncertain. They may even feel fear and grief over the impact of the virus on their families. These new stringent measures and heightened anxiety can weaken our immune systems and make us more susceptible to viruses and bacteria.

Understanding why we get sick, will help us to avoid the common triggers. Things to beware of:

Eating too much sugar

Who doesn’t love a sweet treat? But sadly, eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This weakens white blood cells. If you’re consuming sweet things throughout the day it means that your immune system may continuously be operating at a distinct disadvantage.

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Staying up late

Catching up on Netflix till the wee hours of the morning, plus getting up later in the mornings can trigger migraines. Sticking to healthy sleep habits and getting eight hours of sleep can reduce the frequency of headaches by 29 per cent, and the intensity by 40 per cent.

Grocery shopping

Unlike bars and restaurants struggling with the alcohol band and curfew, grocery stores have remained open throughout lockdown. Shopping means we’re handling and drawing cash far more than usual. Money carries about 3,000 different types of bacteria that can lead to all sorts of illnesses (over and above COVID-19). Always wipe shopping trolleys and surfaces with sanitising wipes before touching and wash your hands afterwards.

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Travelling by plane

Although we may not be travelling by air as frequently, studies have found that flying heightens your risk of catching a cold by 80 per cent. Sitting in close quarters might be partially to blame, but we typically push ourselves to meet all the last-minute deadlines before going on holiday or taking leave, which puts a strain on our immune system. Boost your immunity by getting enough rest, eating healthily and managing stress. An immune-boosting supplement is recommended. Look for supplements containing vitamin C, zinc and echinacea to keep the common cold at bay.

Dirty air conditioners

If you’re travelling in the car or visiting somewhere warm, you’ll be making use of air conditioning units to cool down. If the units haven’t been cleaned regularly, they could be harbouring harmful bacteria that can affect those with compromised immune systems. It’s recommended that air conditioning systems get debugged at least every two years.


You’ve got the basics right: you’re wearing your mask, avoiding crowds, and keeping your distance from friends and family. It’s important to remember that airborne germs thrive in crowded environments, which heightens your risk of getting sick.

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Common illnesses over and above COVID-19 include fever, diarrhoea, respiratory infections, giardiasis (infection of the small intestine), skin or soft tissue infections. Proper hygiene practices are so important and never consume food or water from places where the risk of contamination is high.

Apart from plasters and Burnshield, your first-aid kit should always include sunscreen, mosquito repellent, antibacterial cream, antihistamines, eye drops, pain medication and medicine to help with cramps and nausea.

Written by Alisha Mackintosh, the Allergy and Immunity Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics.