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The Asthma Section

H1N1 (Swine Flu) and Asthma

General Questions

Q. What can I do to prevent the spread of illness?

A. Following are some precautions to take from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Q. Should I take my child to a “flu party” to expose him or her to the virus now, before it gets worse in the fall and winter?

A. It is not a good idea to deliberately expose anyone to the H1N1 virus. According to Dr. Ken Scott, director of pandemic preparedness at the Public Health Agency of Canada, while most people who have contracted H1N1 have had relatively mild illness so far, “this particular virus has been causing significant and severe illness in previously healthy people between the ages of six months and 50 years.”

While no one should try to purposely contract this flu, it’s especially important that people with underlying conditions such as asthma do everything possible to avoid becoming sick as it could exacerbate the asthma.

Q. Should I or my child wear a mask?

A. While it’s important to take steps to avoid spreading the H1N1 virus, wearing a mask is not recommended or needed. First, a mask gives a false sense of security, and “there’s no evidence that wearing these masks will actually make any difference in terms of whether you actually acquire influenza virus or not,” says Scott of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Instead, to avoid catching and spreading the virus people should wash their hands properly and often, eat well and get enough sleep, and if you are sick, stay home from school or work.

However, if you are caring for a sick child at home, it may be prudent to wear a mask.

See Also:

Sources

• H1N1 media call with experts, organized by The Lung Association of Canada.
• Websites linked above.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
• E-mail interviews with Dr. Wade Watson and Dr. Michael Cyr.

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.