Busting H1N1 flu prevention myths

Philadelphia - November 4, 2009

"I got concerned as a parent just like any parent because of all the hype that's on with H1N1," her father Andy Person said. Caroline had a cough, sore throat, and a fever of 104. Andy took her to their family doctor who prescribed Tamiflu and told Caroline had to stay away from her siblings for at least five days.

"I did beads and a lot of coloring," Caroline said. And after that, she was fine. Her father says the hype was just that, hype.

Dr. Richard Besser, senior medical editor for ABC News, says this is how says cases of H1N1 play out. But because children are at a greater risk for complications, prevention shouldn't be taken lightly. But that's where some companies are trying to cash in.

"Whenever there's an outbreak from an infectious disease, there's a lot of profiteering going on," Dr. Besser said.

In fact, the Kelloggs company posts claims that some of their cereals can keep your family healthy by boosting immunity and some anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners say they kill more germs.

Many say the cereal claim is misleading. Kelloggs says the label was posted before the H1N1 outbreak, when the cereal boosted its vitamin content.

But Dr. Besser says while being low in vitamins can lead to poor immunity, there's no proof having extra will prevent illness. Wednesday, Kelloggs announced they will phase out the boxes with the immunity claims.

As for the special soaps and cleaners, sure they kill germs but no more than any other soaps and cleaners. Germ expert Dr. Allison Aiello of Tork Hygiene Council also says anti-bacterial products may give a false sense of security when it comes to the flu. "Because they may work against bacteria but they're not going to be working against viruses."

And there's still other so -called prevention tips circulating in emails. One recommends gargling with salt water twice a day. But while that will soothe a sore throat, it won't prevent you from getting sick.

Flushing your sinuses, such as with a neti pot also sounds like a plausible way to prevent H1N1, but Dr. Besser says "When a virus enters your nose, it attaches pretty quickly to the lining, to those cells. So there's no good evidence that will prevent the flu."

So what works to reduce your chances of getting H1N1, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. It's what the Person kids do. It's what helped keep the rest of the family healthy and ready to play together as soon as Caroline was better.

One more prevention tip is of course, the H1N1 vaccine. People in the high-priority groups are recommended to get vaccinated once more vaccine becomes available. For more information, visit www.flu.gov


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