Public Reminded To Take Measures Against Cold Weather

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Members of the public planning to participate in outdoor countdownactivities are advised to wear enough to keep themselves warm in viewof the prevailing cold weather.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health alsoreminded members of the public, especially senior citizens and theircare-givers, to take precautionary measures to protect their healthduring the cold spell.

The Assistant Director of Health, Dr Regina Ching, said, "Cold weathercan trigger diseases, especially among the elderly and people sufferingfrom heart disease, respiratory or chronic medical conditions."

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

"Chronic health problems like hypertension, diabetes and endocrine(internal secretion) problems may lead to a lower metabolic rate andcause the body to generate less heat."

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

Dr Ching said the Government Influenza Vaccination Programme providedfree vaccines to eight categories of high-risk people, including seniorcitizens living in residential care homes and long-stay residents ofinstitutions for the disabled. The programme has been extended to allowmore time for them to get vaccinated.

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

She reminded the public, especially senior citizens and people withchronic 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, e.g. 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. Heatersmust be used with care to ensure safety, and adequate indoorventilation must be maintained.

- Seek medical attention if unwell.

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

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As for babies, Dr Ching said, it is important to keep them lightlyclothed so as not to restrict their movements. Parents should observethe 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 andtheir arms outside light bedding. To reduce the risk of an infant'shead 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 thesick, and when visiting hospitals and/or clinics. Cover nose and mouthwhile sneezing or coughing. Dispose soiled tissue paper in a liddedrubbish 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 potmenu, are also common in cool season. The following preventive measuresshould be taken:

- Wash hands before handling food and dining.

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

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

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

- Avoid sprinkling food with raw spring onions. Store the washed andprepared food in refrigerator at a temperature below four degreesCelsius. 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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