George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London,
How to "Winterize"
Here are some suggestions regarding how to prepare for the cold and
flu season, how to "winterize" yourself.
There is no intent or opportunity here to provide specific medical
advice, or to allow the development of a physician-patient relationship
with the reader.
Unless you are allergic to eggs (ie. you cannot eat eggs or egg
products without having an allergic reaction), or have had signs of an
acute infection within the last two weeks, or are immunocompromised, or
are allergic to the preservative thimerosal, or are in the first trimester
of pregnancy, you should contact your physician about getting
a flu shot...despite the late date and the imperfect match of this
year's flu vaccine formulation. And the rumors about reactions from
the flu shot are untrue; reactions are rare and mild. Flu vaccine
should be received yearly in September or October.
You should get a Pneumovax injection every 6 years. The invaders
that cause the largest number of pneumonias are becoming progressively
more resistant to antibiotics. Thus, the importance of having resistance
on board beforehand.
You should drink adequate amounts of fluids (1 1/2 - 2 quarts) daily.
You should get 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
You should wash hands frequently, whatever your work or contacts.
If you do develop symptoms and/or signs of a respiratory tract infection
(muscle aches, weakness, sore throat, fever, runny nose, cough and/or wheeze...),
you should treat yourself promptly with extra rest, extra fluids, warm
water gargles, plain robitussin, and with children's neosynephrine or children's
afrin nose spray for three days.
You should refrain from any exercise or athletic program until all symptoms
and signs have resolved fully...or for at least one week, whichever is
longer. If not, you risk developing a cardiomyopathy, an infection
of the heart muscle that is often fatal.
If at any time you develop purulent mucus discharge lasting longer than
one hour in the morning, ("earth tones", as a patient calls it),
you should contact your physician for an appropriate antibiotic, something
which can be prescribed by telephone without delay. FYI...Zithromax
is not effective for respiratory tract infections. Better choices
include Biaxin or Doxycycline, for a minimum of 10 days.
If you have a history of chronic disease, diabetes, upper and/or lower
respiratory allergies or asthma, COPD, or immunosuppression or deficiency,
above decision points are accelerated.
An older person (especially over 75 years of age) can be seriously ill
- and can even have pneumonia - without manifesting any or all or the above
symptoms or signs. There may be just a vague sense of ill health,
or a mild change in mental state...so beware.
Young children get sick and sicker more quickly than do adults, particularly
when they do not maintain adequate fluid intake...a common occurrence.
In any case, don't hesitate to contact your doctor early,and often
if necessary. We learned in medical school that the three attributes
of a physician that are most important and valuable to a patient are:
ability, affability, and availability...in reverse order!