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‘Games flu” no sleeping matter

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A new poll shows, more than a third (44%) of Australians over the last month have stayed up late or set the early-alarm to watch the trilogy of games as Wimbledon, Tour de France and Olympic Games rolled-over one after another.

A nation happily sacrificing sleep in commitment to our love for sports, in reality is affecting our health, 52% of those interviewed who had stayed up late reported to have suffered from cold and flu symptoms dubbed “Games Flu”.

Dr Ginni Mansberg, General Practitioner and Women and Children’s Health Expert, is not surprised. “Research shows a strong link between lack of sleep and immunity. Individuals burning the candle at both ends and those who suffer poor sleep quality are more susceptible to common colds, flus and other viruses”, said Dr Mansberg.

A research study of 153 healthy men and women with an average of 37 between 2000 and 2004 revealed participants with less than seven hours of sleep were almost three times more likely to develop a cold. The quality of sleep was also critical showing that volunteers with poor quality (92% efficiency) were five and a half times more likely to develop a cold.

With almost double the number of people contracting influenza compared to this time last year, the 2012 cold and flu season has been labelled the biggest since swine flu said Professor Dominic Dwyer, Medical Virologist, Westmead Hospital and Member, The Hygiene Council.

In July, reports of laboratory confirmed cases of influenza have jumped more than two and half times when compared in the month of June. According to the Department of Health and Aging more than 8,500 (8,540) cases of Influenza were diagnosed in June whereas more than 21, 000 (21, 894) laboratory confirmed notifications were reported in the July period alone.

Experts such as Dr Ginni Mansberg warn: “With often a large number of cases going undiagnosed with a laboratory test, the situation is likely to be much worse. Reason being the flu is contractible, it’s recommended either to stay home when you have it or be very careful to adopt good hygiene practices such as covering your mouth when you cough and wash hands regularly. If individuals are unaware they have the flu, due to lack of necessary infection control precautions it will spread to others at work and at home.”

“As we experience the ‘Games Flu’ syndrome this winter with individuals who are sleep-deprived particularly vulnerable. Mums and bubs who also suffer from sleepless nights are also most at risk that’s why prevention, is key to beating the bug” said Dr Mansberg.

More than half (56%) of Australians polled, take preventative measures against stopping the flu this winter such as using anti-bacterial handwash or anti-bacterial surface cleaner. However, only 37% admitted to have stayed home to recover.

Professor Dominic Dwyer believes this a concern: “With a high surge of influenza virus cases reported this winter, strains such as influenza A H3N2 appearing and an alarming number of Australians being hit with the ‘Games Flu’ prepared to persist rather than rest, staying vigilant is critical when it comes to cold and flu prevention”.

Viruses are contagious and protecting your family from the germs that cause colds and flus can be easier than you think.

The Australian Medical Association Victoria advises the golden rule to help prevent bugs from spreading is washing your hands regularly with soap and water, protecting others by covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing, and disposing of used tissues appropriately are simple measures that make a difference in reducing flu transmission.

“Importantly flu viruses can remain active on surfaces for up to 48 hours so washing hands and surfaces is the easiest way to help greatly reduce the chances of catching and spreading cold and flu bugs” adds Professor Dominic Dwyer.

Tips for staying healthy this winter

Some helpful tips that will help your family stay healthy is good hygiene. Good hygiene can help stop the spread of germs around your home and making you and your family ill.

Some other tips for helping prevent the spread of germs are:

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitiser to help kill the germs on your hands
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly, especially the surfaces that people often touch with their hands e.g. door handles, taps and bench tops
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Put used tissues in the bin and wash your hands thoroughlyAvoid close contact with people who have had the flu

Since colds and flu can spread via hands and surfaces, good home and personal hygiene is essential. And, during a flu epidemic, it is also important to make sure you follow the latest government advice.

(Source: AMA Media)

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Dates

Posted On: 9 August, 2012
Modified On: 16 September, 2014

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