HEALTH

Consumer Reports discusses H1N1 precautions in new issue

BY Allison Cerra

YONKERS, N.Y. As the U.S. prepares for a possible second wave of the novel H1N1 pandemic, as well as for the annual scourge of seasonal flu and colds, a new report from Consumer Reports helps households prepare for, prevent, and treat cold and flu symptoms safely and effectively, including recommendations for what to pack in an emergency kit for a flu outbreak.

Consumer Reports discusses the “what if?” in their newest issue, suggesting that if a second wave of H1N1 is severe enough to warrant home confinement, consumers should pack an emergency kit in advance, which should include:

  • A two-week supply of food and water.
  • Such fever reducers as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
  • Cough and cold medications containing chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, oxymetazoline, and pseudoephedrine and lozenges with dyclonine, glycerin, or honey can help ease symptoms.
  • Electrolyte drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade, to keep you hydrated.
  • Hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, such as Purell, to kill viruses when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Surgical masks with an FDA rating of at least N-95 to help prevent spreading the flu. Masks need to be replaced often and disposed of after use.

For all emergencies, Consumer Reports recommends packing at least three days’ worth of nonperishable food; at least one gallon of water per person, per day; a first-aid kit that includes any prescription or over-the-counter medications your family might need; as well as antihistamines for allergic reactions, pain relievers, stomach and antidiarrhea remedies, and antacids.

Consumer Reports also points out that it recommends everyone — but especially high-risk people — get vaccinated against regular, seasonal flu before the year’s end.

“This could be an especially big year for flu, so people need to take every precaution and double their efforts to safeguard their families,” said Joel Keehn, senior editor, Consumer Reports. “Even when the vaccine doesn’t prevent seasonal flu, it often lessens its symptoms. In terms of treatments, certain antiviral drugs can not only ease symptoms of seasonal flu but also shorten its duration and possibly prevent complications as well. Some of those drugs probably help against swine flu too. Antivirals work best if taken early on in the illness, so it’s best to take them at the first sign of symptoms.”

Additionally, the new report also discusses which cold and allergy medications are the best remedies for ailments, as Consumer Reports discusses both “at-home remedies” and generic versions of over-the-counter medications.

The report is available in the September 2009 issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

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Study finds probiotics may bolster immune system in children

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN BRUNO, Calif. A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics has found that probiotics may be able to bolster the immune system in children well enough to ward off cold and flu viruses, Biocodex reported last week.

Patricia Raymond, assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, advised to consider the use of Florastor to help strengthen the gut.

“Consider the use of Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii), a yeast-based probiotic supplement commonly sold under the brand name Florastor,” she said. “Data has shown that S. boulardii can modify the inflammation and secretion of the gut, neutralize toxins and decrease various pathogens’ ability to attach to the wall of the intestine.”

Florastor is also available as Florastor Kids, Biocodex stated.

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WHO: Pregnant women infected with H1N1 virus experience fatal illnesses

BY Michael Johnsen

GENEVA The World Health Organization on Friday stated that research — conducted in the United States and published July 29 in The Lancet — outlining increased risk of severe or fatal illness in pregnant women when infected with the H1N1 pandemic virus has been observed in several other countries experiencing widespread transmission of the virus.

Women are at particular risk during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. An increased risk of fetal death or spontaneous abortions in infected women has also been reported. Evidence from previous pandemics further supports the conclusion that pregnant women are at heightened risk, WHO added.

WHO strongly recommends that, in areas where infection with the H1N1 virus is widespread, pregnant women, and the clinicians treating them, be alert to symptoms of influenza-like illness. Treatment with the antiviral drug oseltamivir should be administered as soon as possible after symptom onset. As the benefits of oseltamivir are greatest when administered within 48 hours after symptom onset, clinicians should initiate treatment immediately and not wait for the results of laboratory tests.

WHO has further recommended that, when pandemic vaccines become available, health authorities should consider making pregnant women a priority group for immunization.

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