Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Massachusetts Medical Society urges caution, common sense this flu season

Massachusetts Medical Society urges caution, common sense this flu season

Basic health habits - “Healthy Hygiene, Cough Control, Prudent Parenting, and Selective Sharing -- can help protect you and your family against illness” this flu season

Waltham, MA (PRWEB) December 14, 2003

With a shortage of vaccine and as fears rise among people with what is likely to be a severe flu season in the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Medical Society today urged Bay State citizens to use “caution and common sense” to ward off illness this winter.

“Even with the injectable vaccine in short supply,” said Massachusetts Medical Society President-Elect Alan C. Woodward, M. D., “many simple, common sense steps can be taken to reduce the chances of getting sick with the flu.”

While getting a flu shot certainly adds some protection against the virus, Woodward, chief of emergency medical services at Emerson Hospital in Concord, said people should not lose sight of the important, simple steps to take to protect themselves even without a flu shot.

“Individual knowledge and behavior can have a powerful impact on public health,” said Woodward. “This is a good time to remind ourselves of some of the ABC’s of good health.”

He outlined several steps people can take to protect themselves:

·“Healthy Hygiene” -- Good hygiene habits just make good sense. Wash hands frequently or use an alcohol handwash or wipe, particularly if you’ve been out or around people with colds or flu. And avoid as much as possible touching your eyes, nose, mouth - gateways for germs into your body.

·“Cough Control” - Cover your mouth adequately, with a tissue or other means, if you’re coughing and never cough in the direction of someone else. If you don’t have a tissue or handkerchief, cough into your sleeve.

·“Prudent Parenting” -- Children are among the most vulnerable, so parents must be extra cautious. Don’t take your children into high-risk areas, like large crowds, where some may have colds or the flu. If your child is ill, keep him or her home. Check with school officials about the frequency and severity of the illness among students and faculty. And parents should be careful as well about their own workplaces. Finally, be cautious about holding, hugging and kissing your children if you’ve been somewhere where you think people may be sick.

·“Selective Sharing” - Sharing is a wonderful trait, but don’t share items that can spread germs and viruses, like straws, drinking cups and glasses or bottles.

How do you know if youÂ’re getting the flu? Symptoms include fever of 102-104 degrees, aches and pains, and fatigue.

If you, your family, friends or loved ones do get sick, public health authorities recommend lots of fluids and rest, ibuprofen (e. g., Motrin or Advil) or acetaminophen (e. g., Tylenol) for the aches and pains, and staying away from other people to prevent spreading the illness. Aspirin is not recommended.

Public health authorities also suggest that individuals should first contact their primary care doctors if they suspect theyÂ’re getting sick, and visit the emergency room if they canÂ’t reach their doctor and are experiencing unusually severe symptoms. Symptoms of severe cases include shortness of breath, noisy or labored breathing, coughing up significant amounts of phlegm, or getting worse after you think youÂ’ve become better.

For parents, a visit to the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics at www. aap. org/new/decimmunization. htm (http://www. aap. org/new/decimmunization. htm) will provide good information on caring and treatment of children.

Woodward said the state and Federal governments are working to secure as much vaccine as they can and are recommending that physicians use whatever supply of the injectable vaccine is remaining for the most vulnerable individuals.

In addition, adequate supplies of FluMist â - a nasal vaccine approved by the FDA -- are available. While it is more expensive than the regular vaccine, some health plans have announced that they will cover its cost. And physicians say it is an appropriate option for healthy people ages 5-49.

Woodward said people should check the website of The Massachusetts Department of Public Health for the latest information on the availability of vaccines and the severity of the flu at www. state. ma. us/dph/dphhome. htm (http://www. state. ma. us/dph/dphhome. htm )

For personal hygiene information, Woodward suggests visiting the Massachusetts Medical SocietyÂ’s website, which offers a school curriculum and basic information on hand-washing. Visit www. massmed. org/pages/handwashing03.asp (http://www. massmed. org/pages/handwashing03.asp) for brochures and posters.

The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 18,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the physicians and patients of Massachusetts. Founded in 1781, the MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country. The Society owns and publishes The New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal Watch family of professional newsletters, and AIDS Clinical Care, and produces HealthNews, a consumer health publication. For more information, visit www. massmed. org.