Saturday, September 12, 2009

'Tis the season for handwashing

Chicken pox, mad cow disease, swine flu — we have odd names for serious and not so serious diseases. Swine flu is one of the more serious ones and as a nurse I encourage all my readers who work with kids or in health care, who are pregnant, elderly or in other high risk groups to get a flu shot. One should be enough according to the latest studies.

I have written before about eating soup when you are sick, but congee (rice soup) is a comfort food. Soup can do much more for you when you are sick than just providing you with salt, fluids and memories of mom taking care of you when you came down with something. Spicy soup like Tom Yum can help relieve congestion, clearing your head and easing your aches and pains.

Capsaicin, the hot in hot peppers, has been proven to reduce inflammation, relieve chronic pain and help prevent strokes and heart attacks. More and more research also shows that hot peppers help with cancer prevention.

If you do not get a flu shot, you should at least know the symptoms of swine flu. Everything you remember from the last time you had the flu is also a symptom of swine flu: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue. But with swine flu you may also get diarrhea and/or vomiting. In children abrupt cognitive or behavorial changes can occur, possibly due to Reye's syndrome (do not give children with viral illnesses aspirin, give them Tylenol instead).

If you think you may have swine flu, see your doctor! It's worth your time and the cost of a visit even if you find out you have regular flu and not swine flu. And regardless of whether you catch regular flu or swine flu, stay home and rest. If you want True Thai soup, send someone to pick it up for you. Do NOT eat out or go out in public unless it's absolutely necessary. Remember that illness is especially hard on people who live by themselves so do try to help friends, relatives or coworkers who may be sick at home without enough groceries to get by.

To avoid the flu, wash your hands. Yes, yes I know everyone says this but everyone tells you to wash your hands because it is the very best way to avoid disease. Especially if you live in an apartment building, attend school or work in a place with lots of other people. We touch everything with our hands, and then we touch our mouths and noses with those same hands and that is how germs get into our bodies. And the best places to get germs on your hands are hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and all the other places sick people go.

This has been a TRUE THAI HEALTH ADVISORY urging you to take basic precautions (handwashing!). Take care of yourself this flu season.