The Winter war – understanding colds and flu this winter

As we find ourselves in the midst of one of the coldest winters in Botswana, as the chill hits us, the sneezing, coughing, stuffiness, headaches, aches and pains start making their appearance. As we sit with our box of tissues, snuggled under a blankie, remembering when we could breathe through both nostrils, we wonder “do I have the flu or do I have a cold… either way when will it end?”

Even though these two dreaded winter wars are equally frustrating it is very important that we are able to distinguish between the two and when to let nature run its course versus consulting with your family doctor.

Firstly, both colds and the flu are caused by viruses and therefore do NOT require antibiotics.  Secondly, colds tend to be less severe than the flu with symptoms being less intense and colds resolving faster. Thirdly, flu can result in serious health complications such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, sepsis, etc that require hospitalisation. 


There are no medicines that can CURE either a cold or flu, but there are over the counter medications that can offer symptomatic relief in addition to making sure that you stay warm, hydrated and well rested. These include multi-symptoms cold and flu tabs, analgesia, decongestants and lozenges. However, if you develop any of the following red flags, please visit your family doctor as soon as possible:

  • Persistent fever with/without severe body weakness
  • Painful swallowing 
  • Persistent coughing with/without difficulty breathing
  • Persistent congestion with/without difficulty breathing
  • Persistent headaches with/without dizziness
  • Confusion

Additionally, while any one of us – young or old, male or female – can contract a cold or the flu, people with asthma or sinusitis, children and the elderly, as well as those who are immunosuppressed are more likely to end up fighting “The Winter War”.  

And even though both colds and flu are somewhat inevitable, there are some prevention strategies that we can undertake:

  • Getting the Flu vaccine
  • Keeping warm especially when going outside
  • Keeping hydrated
  • Avoiding people who are ill
  • Upping your Vitamin C intake.

With that said, whip out those winter coats, scarves and boots, while sipping on a warm cuppa tea or coffee and enjoy these few winter days of our mostly summer year!


By YourBotswana writer:
Dr. Noorain Lottering-Kokabi, BMSc, MBBS (UWI MONA)

Born in May 1989, Dr Noorain hails from Gaborone Botswana. She completed her Pre-Med at the University of Botswana and went on to attain her BMSc and MBBS degrees at The University of The West Indies in Kingston Jamaica.

Having practised medicine in both the Caribbean and Botswana, she has been exposed to an array of conditions and ailments that have in turn widened her scope of expertise. She is also involved in multiple philanthropic projects that aim to equip youths with relevant life skills and tools they need throughout their lives.

A young, diligent, enthusiastic professional with a formidable hunger to continuously seek further knowledge, both in alternative and modern medicine, Dr. Noorain aims to better the healthcare in the communities she serves.

She currently works in community health providing first line care for the community as a whole. Her current position has enabled her to manage both common and complex cases. These cases range from the common cold/flu, bites to mental health, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, tuberculosis and HIV (along with the associated complications). Having worked in the Caribbean, Dr. Noorain is very familiar with the treatment of tropical diseases and severe symptoms that may arise from such diseases.

Dr. Noorain provides quality outpatient care ensuring that her patients are fully educated on their respective illness. After all a patient that is well educated on their illness is more likely to comply with medical protocols and prevention strategies, hence reducing potential mortality and morbidity statistics, which reflects a healthy and happier Botswana.

Dr Noorain is a young, career driven, passionate, culturally and medically diverse professional. She is excited about her collaboration with YourBotswana, hoping to use the platform to educate citizens and visitors alike on current health issues in Botswana.

9 months ago

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