Public Reminded To Take Measures Against Cold Weather

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In view of the cold weather expected in the next few days, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health reminded members of the public, especially senior citizens and their care-givers, to take precautionary measures to protect their health during the cold spell.

The Assistant Director of Health, Dr Regina Ching, urged them to show their sense of sharing and care to families, friends, neighbours and the less fortunate ones during the festive season.

"Cold weather can trigger diseases, especially among the elderly and people suffering from heart disease, respiratory or chronic medical conditions."

"The elderly have less insulating fat beneath their skin to keep them warm, and their temperature control mechanism may be weaker."

"Chronic health problems like hypertension, diabetes mellitus and endocrine problems may lead to a lower metabolic rate and cause the body to generate less heat."

"Other problems like stroke, fractures, Parkinson's disease and dementia may restrict the mobility of the elderly, slowing down the generation and conservation of body heat."

Dr Ching said the Government Influenza Vaccination Programme provided free vaccines to eight categories of high-risk people, including senior citizens living in residential care homes and long-stay residents of institutions for the disabled. The programme has been extended to allow more time for them to get vaccinated.

"Other members of the public who are not covered by the programme are also urged to consult their family doctors on the need of vaccination."

She reminded the public, especially senior citizens and people with chronic medical conditions, to adopt the following precautions:

- Take note of the weather forecast. Wear appropriately warm clothing, including scarves, socks, gloves and hats.

- Consume sufficient food and drink with a high calorie content, eg, hot soup, hot rice and noodles

- Perform regular exercise to facilitate circulation and production of heat.

- Stay in a warm environment and avoid exposure in open spaces. Heaters must be used with care to ensure safety, and adequate indoor ventilation must be maintained.

- Seek medical attention if unwell.

She said they should also avoid alcoholic beverages. "Some people think that drinking alcohol will keep them warm, but this is wrong. In fact, alcohol causes the blood vessels to dilate, and the body actually loses warmth."

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As for babies, Dr Ching said, it is important to keep them lightly clothed so as not to restrict their movements. Parents should observe the following rules when putting their babies to bed:

- Babies should normally lie on their backs. Pillows should not be used.

- Babies should be placed with their feet at the foot of the cot and their arms outside light bedding. To reduce the risk of an infant's head being covered, bedding should be tucked securely beneath the cot.

To avoid influenza and upper respiratory tract infection, members of the public are advised to take the following precautions:

- Have adequate rest, a balanced diet, regular exercise and reduce stress. Do not smoke;

- Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene;

- Good ventilation should be maintained;

- Wear a mask if you develop flu-like symptoms, when caring for the sick, and when visiting hospitals and/or clinics. Cover nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing. Dispose soiled tissue paper in a lidded rubbish bin and wash hands afterwards.

- If feeling unwell, seek medical attention immediately and stay at home.

Dr Ching said food-borne diseases, especially those linked to hot pot menu, are also common in cool season. The following preventive measures should be taken:

- Wash hands before handling food and dining.

- When choosing food, never patronize venders which are unlicensed or have poor standard of hygiene. Buy seafood which is fresh, such as those with intact shells and no strange smell.

- When handling food, wash and cook all food thoroughly. Make sure that vegetables are washed thoroughly. If possible, soak the vegetables in clean water for a period of time to ensure that the pesticide on the vegetables is washed off.

- Care should also be taken when handling seafood. Don't eat prawns when it just turns red. Cook for 5 more minutes before eating. Avoid eating the head of the prawn. The outer shell of shellfish should be removed and the shellfish cooked in boiling water for a relatively long period of time to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked.

- Avoid sprinkling food with raw spring onions. Store the washed and prepared food in refrigerator at a temperature below four degrees Celsius. Eat the food as soon as possible after cooking.

- Never use raw egg as dipping sauce for hot pot as it can be contaminated by salmonella.

- Use different sets of chopsticks to handle raw and cooked meat to avoid cross contamination.

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