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Your guide to winter health

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Paulette Crowley from Living Well talks to four Unichem Pharmacists to get their top tips for staying well and managing illness over the winter months.

Alex Grahame, Unichem Orrs Pharmacy, Kaikohe

Natural health options

Probiotics are rapidly becoming one of the mainstays of supporting the immune system, which is in mainly in the gut. Not all probiotics are created equal so for general immune support, choose products from reputable brands. Your Pharmacist will be able to offer guidance here. If you are taking antibiotics, you’ll need a specific ‘antibiotic support’ probiotic and again, your Pharmacist can offer advice on what might be best for you.


I’m very much an advocate of getting nutrients from whole food sources and ‘superfoods’. However there are times when you need extra nutritional support, such as when you’re tired, run down or if you’ve just finished antibiotics. Then it’s time to look at a good multivitamin or a vitamin B complex.

Vitamins that build immunity

Zinc and vitamin C immune are good for building immunity and wound healing, and olive leaf supports the body’s defences. Vitamin A is also good for healing and selenium is always good because most people are deficient in it.

Alex’s top tip

Eat well, get enough sleep and find something that de-stresses you.



Carmen Sam, Unichem Marsden Village Pharmacy, Karori, Wellington

Cold sores

Cold sores often appear when the season changes because they can be triggered by a change in temperature, and when you are run down from being sick or stressed.

Visit your local Unichem as soon as you feel a tingling sensation – that’s when any medication will be most effective.

Common cold sore treatments include antivirals, which are effective at reducing symptoms. If you suffer from cold sores, Lysine is an amino acid that is useful for supporting lip health. You can get Lysine in supplements and Lysine also occurs naturally in food such as fish, meat and dairy products.


When do you see a doctor?

You should see a doctor if you’ve had a cold that’s gone on for more than two weeks, or if you think you might have a sinus infection or strep throat. If there is eye pain with conjunctivitis, or after it, see your GP.

Talk to your doctor or Pharmacist if you take prescription medication and want to take something extra – for instance if you take blood pressure medicine and want to take a decongestant.


Other symptoms that require a visit to the doctor:

  • A cough that gets worse or becomes painful
  • An earache that gets more painful
  • A headache that lasts several days
  • A very sore throat, or if you can see white or yellow spots on the back of your throat
  • A temperature of 38.6 degrees C or higher that lasts more than two days
  • Shaking chills
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen, tender glands in your neck
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath or trouble breathing


Carmen’s top tip

I’m all for the flu vaccine as a preventative and taking an oral tablet that protects against the bacterial complications of colds.


Judy Turnbull, Pharmacist co-owner Unichem Waiheke Pharmacy

Stop kids spreading germs

Frequent hand-washing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stay healthy in school. Remind your child to wash their hands before eating and after using the toilet, blowing their nose, or playing outside.

Give your child an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to keep in their desk or backpack. Remind them to use it before eating and after using a shared computer, pencil sharpener, water fountain or other community objects.

Give your child a pack of tissues to keep in their desk or backpack. Encourage them to cough or sneeze into the tissue, put the tissue in the bin, then wash their hands or use hand sanitiser. If it isn't possible to reach a tissue in time, remind your child to cough or sneeze into the crook of his or her elbow.

Remind your child that hands are often covered in germs so they should keep their hands away from their eyes and out of their mouth. They shouldn’t share water bottles, food or other personal items. If they put an item in their mouth, they should keep it to themself.

Judy’s top tip

Kaloba is commonly used to support respiratory health for ills and chills – people are telling me it works really well.


Amy von Huben, managing director and Pharmacist, Unichem Central Pharmacy Mosgiel

What to do when you get sick

If you become unwell, stay home to get the rest you need. This allows your body to focus on fighting the infection and may shorten the length of illness. It also helps to prevent the spread of bugs.

Keep your fluids up: hot drinks may help ease sinus congestion and soothe the membranes lining the nose and throat. Veggie soups and superfood smoothies are also good. Sleep with an extra pillow if you have sinus congestion or a chesty cough. 

You also need plenty of sleep: adults need about seven or eight hours a night and kids need from nine to 14 hours, depending on their age.

Natural remedies to support recovery from ills and chills include the Artemis range. These can be suitable for babies, children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

You also can't go past a good quality vitamin C to support your immune system, plus the dose can be increased at the first sign of illness to support recovery.

Amy’s top tip

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

Selected Unichem or Life Pharmacists are now providing the flu vaccination. If you are taking any medication it is important you discuss this with your Pharmacist to ensure that your medication does not interact.