Tag Archives: cold

As the Peak of Flu Season Hits, Study Shows Importance of Hygiene

With the peak of flu season usually occurring this month, a recent study on the spreading of flu can teach us an important lesson about hygiene.

The study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, looked carefully at the H1N1 flu season in 2009. They studied schoolchildren, classmates and their families as the epidemic was happening. They suspected that many children were spreading the flu to their classmates in school.

Their findings actually disproved that school was an important source of infection. They found instead that the close contact of friends who played together outside of school was a common source of illness. Typically, children who played together outside of school have more close contact with each other. They use little hygiene such as hand washing or covering a cough.

Hand Washingphoto © 2010 Anthony Albright | more info (via: Wylio)

It was striking that children did not get sick from just sitting next to a classmate in school who was sick. This went against the prevailing wisdom of closing schools to prevent the spread of flu.

In reviewing households with sick children, most of the time adults in the household did not get sick from their children. They were probably making a special effort to limit exposure to the obviously ill family member. Again, the study results suggest the more likely source of infection was in the community at large where efforts at hygiene were forgotten or non-existent.

Day 59, Project 365 - 12.18.09photo © 2009 William Brawley | more info (via: Wylio)

We know that the flu virus does not fly through the air attacking a person over the shoulder while they look the other way. If someone coughs or sneezes on you point-blank within a couple feet, mucus droplets are broadcast with the virus; however, the most common denominator is you. We are the last link to acquire the infection. By touching our own hands to our face and mouth, we’re most likely to get the illness. Hands touch so many public places and surfaces that we forget that our own hands are such germ-laden instruments. Washing hands before eating or food preparation remains one of the most important means of protecting yourself from illness.

The researchers noted that the flu virus spreads very rapidly among school age children. The results reinforce that it is not the classroom or seating arrangement that is the problem. It is more likely due to the fundamental lack of hygiene practices in children and adults in the community that facilitate spread of the disease.

We all can learn a lesson from this study, so be sure to wash up.

– Dr. Bruce Kaler

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Winter Weather Precautions to Take

Winter is here! Anyone out and about in the cold, wet weather is at risk for some temperature-related injury if they do not follow some basic common sense precautions. Understanding what things make you at risk can help prevent mild and severe cold-related problems.

Barry’s Cabinphoto © 2009 Richard Faulder | more info (via: Wylio)

Body Temperature
The biggest danger in winter weather is the actual temperature and the length of time of exposure to the cold. Wet clothing and wind can greatly enhance the dangerous effects of the cold temperatures – even 50 degree weather can be problematic with some wet clothes and wind.

The metabolism of your own body is your only source of heat. Fortunately it is very good at producing heat and regulating body temperature with an elegant thermostat mechanism. The brain initiates sweating to cool your body, and induces shivering and increased hormone production to maintain adequate heat in response to external cold temperatures.

Hypothermia
This can be very mild or very severe. In the mildest form, the heart rate increases and breathing gets faster. When you are too cold, shivering and other involuntary movements to stay warm start happening without even thinking about it. Poor coordination and not thinking clearly are common, which can impact your immediate safety and outcome. If the hypothermia progresses, the senses and mental status are even more dulled, and even the shivering or willingness to move diminish.

Serious heart, lung and other vital organ complications ensue due to decreased blood flow. Children are more prone to hypothermia due to their small size and smaller reserves for heat production and energy storage compared to adults. Young infants do not have the ability to shiver, and being unable to express themselves are more vulnerable to prolonged cold temperatures without any obvious warning signs. Elderly adults may also have less capacity or resistance to cold temperatures being unable to respond quickly to environmental changes, decreased metabolic reserves, chronic illness, or some medications. It is well known that certain medications such as antidepressants, narcotics, general anesthesia, some blood pressure meds, and alcohol consumption all impair the ability of the body to regulate temperature.

Frostbite
True frostbite is when exposed tissues actually freeze and form ice crystals in the cells of the respective tissue. This leads to severe tissue damage and even death; however, most of us will only encounter mild forms of this process, which starts with swelling, turning pale, and numbness of the skin. Hands, feet and face are the most common areas involved because of their exposure and because they are farthest from the heart and warmer core temperatures.

Blisters that are clear or blood-filled, discoloration of the skin, swelling and redness indicate more advanced problems. Getting to medical care is paramount if clues suggest serious complications.

Frostbite occurs in the workplace in industries using cold storage of common refrigerated and frozen food products. Overzealous use of an ice pack on an injured knee or sprained ankle can cause accidental frostbite, especially when in direct contact with the skin without some dry cloth to mediate the effect on bare skin. Ice packs should be applied intermittently for only a few minutes at a time.

Treatment
Re-warming the body part or individual is the most important treatment for the consequences of cold exposure. It is important to avoid re-freezing if this is a risk. In fact, re-warming a truly frozen part should be delayed until you reach some place where re-freezing is no longer a risk. Warm, dry clothes and blankets do wonders to eliminate the continued loss of heat.

If possible, get to a warm, dry location. Any external heat source could be beneficial. Placing cold hands or feet in warm, not very hot, water is helpful. In extreme situations, body-to-body contact with warm dry blankets can help the person suffering from hypothermia in a remote location.

Prevention
It’s crucial to be prepared, which doesn’t need to be expensive.

Proper clothing and supplies are important whether it is a trip downtown, day hike, or wilderness trip. Plan for the unexpected. Weather conditions in remote areas can change abruptly in the fall or winter. Bring some options with you. The best way to avoid cold related injury is to dress in layers that can be removed as conditions dictate.
Limit the time in the cold as much as possible.
Stay dry. Waterproof footwear and suitable covering for head and hands is a must.
Stay well hydrated. Drugs, alcohol and tobacco can seriously impair your judgment and the ability to tolerate prolonged exposure to the cold.

A small amount of planning can help avoid problems and keep you a lot more comfortable – and healthy – when out in the cold weather.

– Dr. Bruce Kaler

Is it a Cold or the Flu? Dr. Baxter Debunks the Myths on FOX Dallas

When winter rolls around, so do the germs. But does that cough and fever mean you have the flu or just the common cold?

Dr. Shiu-Yueh Baxter, Center Medical Diretor of our Carrollton clinic, spoke with KDFW-TV FOX Dallas this morning to discuss the difference between the two and to explain the truth behind common winter flu myths. The segment is available here.