Help With Colds in South Africa - Everything You Need to Know

Start a consultation

Download the app

In this article, we seek to equip you with information on managing and preventing the common cold.


Meet our medical expert, Doctor Chido

Dr. Chido is the Clinical Care Lead at Kena Health. We sat down with her on the topic of the common cold.

Dr. Chido's dedication to healthcare is evident in her role at Kena Health, where she ensures the delivery of exceptional care and nurtures the professional growth of telemedicine practitioners. Armed with a foundation in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pretoria and ongoing studies in Public Health at the University of the Western Cape, Dr. Chido combines clinical expertise with a commitment to public well-being.

Her career journey spans various roles, from Doctor Clinician to OVCY Clinical Technical Advisor at FHI 360 and Hospital Team Lead at Broadreach Healthcare. 

Here are Dr Chido’s answers to popular questions about colds.


How common are colds in South Africa, and are there specific seasons when they are more common?

Colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses are more common in colder months. People are indoors more often with less fresh air and ventilation, allowing viruses to pass more easily from one person to another. 

In addition, the cold weather often deters people from washing their hands, increasing the spread of disease. Cold and dry air can also weaken resistance. 

What are the typical symptoms of a cold?

Common symptoms include a blocked or runny nose, coughing, sometimes a fever or headache and fatigue. 

Are there specific over-the-counter medications available for cold relief in South Africa? 

Over-the-counter medications can effectively treat colds. These medications focus on relieving the symptoms a patient is experiencing. Self-medication and the use of over-the-counter without the guidance of a medical professional can sometimes be risky as you could incorrectly self-diagnose your symptoms and take the wrong medication, which could lead to longer recovery times, escalation of symptoms and spending money on ineffective cures.   We encourage patients to consult with a registered professional to get the right diagnosis and treatment plan. 


What medications might be recommended for treating severe cold symptoms, and are antibiotics commonly prescribed? 

Cold medications focus on treating the various symptoms of a cold, so depending on your symptoms, you will need specific medication. This could include nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants -to loosen mucus in your lungs so you can cough it up or pain relievers - to ease fever, headaches, and minor aches and pains. Depending on the severity of the cold, your clinician may prescribe XXX higher scheduled medication. Always follow the recommended dosages, and do not exceed the specified time frame for taking medication. If your symptoms do not improve, it is important to seek medical advice. 

Antibiotics are not prescribed for a common cold because a virus causes the common cold; antibiotics are intended for bacterial infections. The use of antibiotics when they are not required leads to drug-resistant bacteria (bacteria that are harder to treat). This can cause more serious infections in the future. 


Are there any home remedies South Africans commonly use for colds? 

Eating nourishing vegetables and fruits helps your body's immune system and overall well-being and assists your recovery. In addition to a healthy diet, warm teas with honey, lemon, and ginger can be soothing when you have a cold. Be cautious of home remedies beyond sound nutritional foods, as some may not be scientifically proven and could be harmful. Always consult with a registered medical professional before following a course of treatment. 

What healthcare facilities or professionals should one consult to diagnose and treat a cold in South Africa?

Simple colds and flu can readily be diagnosed and treated by your local clinic or a nurse or doctor. Virtual healthcare platforms like Kena Health are also well-placed to diagnose and treat colds and issue relevant prescriptions. 


How can individuals with a cold prevent the spread of the illness?

A cold is a respiratory infection, and it is spread from the droplets that you cough out or the droplets that you sneeze out. 

It is important to wear a mask so that even if you're sneezing or coughing, you're not doing so into the air that other people breathe it in, and you are not doing so onto surfaces that other people will touch. 

If you have a cold, it is important to wash your hands regularly. You should sanitise your hands, especially if you're in a place where many people are. If you're coughing or sneezing, cough or sneeze into your elbow.


Are there any particular risk factors for developing severe cold symptoms? 

Factors that could compromise the immune system are diabetes, HIV infection, stress, not eating well, and not getting enough sleep."


What preventive measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of catching a cold in South Africa? 

Prevention is always better than cure; here are some preventative measures:

  • Keep your immune system as strong as you possibly can.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables, drink a lot of water, get enough sleep and exercise.
  • Wear your mask, sanitise, and keep yourself safe.
  • If you've got a chronic disease, make sure that you're taking your medication as you should and that you are going for checkups regularly.


Is the flu vaccine recommended as a preventive measure against severe colds, and where can it be obtained in South Africa? 

The flu vaccine is a vaccine against influenza specifically, so it might not protect you against all the viruses that cause the common cold. That said, we recommend that the elderly and those with chronic diseases consider the flu vaccine; this helps minimise serious infection and possible complications. 

Vaccines are accessible at clinics and pharmacies. Just walk in, and you ask for the flu vaccine, and it's administered. 


Thanks, Doctor Chido! 

Sitting down and conversing with Chido about finding doctors was hugely enjoyable.


Arming yourself with knowledge is a powerful tool in the battle against the common cold, especially within the dynamic setting of South Africa. As you embrace the wealth of information provided in this guide, may you find comfort and empowerment in your ability to manage and alleviate the symptoms of colds proactively. Here's to your health and well-being in the beautiful and culturally rich landscape of South Africa – armed with everything you need to know about combating colds effectively. Stay well!


Download the Kena Health online doctor app now. 

Get an online doctor consultation or a referral to a doctor near you if needed with the Kena Health app for only R185 per consultation. Download the Kena Health online doctor app.

More articles from Kena Health

Back to articles