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 EAGLEVILLE, Pa., Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Though much has already

been reported about this season's flu epidemic, the real "attack" is expected to hit between January and March.
 And no matter what immunizations or "traditional" precautions people take, no one will be completely immune to the viruses.
 Flu viruses are always changing. So last year's flu shot may not spare you from this year's strain. There are, however, ways you can defend yourself and better care for your family.
 According to recent national health reports, experts expect a new strain of influenza A -- called A-Beijing -- to hit hard this winter. (It is named for the city in which it first struck.) Those likely to suffer the most serious complications are older adults, and children. This year's flu shot -- intended for older adults -- contains an inactivated form of the A-Beijing virus, and can provide about 75 percent protection against serious complications (such as fatal pneumonias) because it enables the body to fight off the virus before it attacks the lungs.
 The pharmacists at "I Got It At Gary's" drugstores, based in Eagleville, offer some insight on local flu patterns, as well as advice on beating perhaps one of the worst "misery" seasons in recent history.
 How the Recession Seems Linked to Medical Compliance -- and Non-compliance.
 "This year, unfortunately, people have tended to comply less with their doctor's orders," said Don Burness, pharmacist at "I Got It At Gary's" Lansdale store. "Some people, scared this year by the costs of prescribed medications, occasionally have asked us to cut their prescriptions in half." Others, said Burness, are attempting to have the pharmacist make a diagnosis, and are avoiding seeing their doctor altogether. They will often choose an over-the-counter product.
 In the case of doctor's orders, when a prescription amount is altered, or the patient opts not to comply with specified refills, the infection often reoccurs -- since it was never eradicated in the first place. When it resurfaces, the germ usually has an acquired resistance to the first medication, and requires a stronger (and perhaps more expensive) follow-up prescription. This calls for a second visit to the doctor, another prescription, and perhaps more missed days at work or school. Clearly, non-compliance can mean more than twice the cost of the doctor's originally prescribed treatment.
 "People need to take whatever their prescribed medication is, until it is completely finished," said Burness, "or they can be facing much more than the original expense, not to mention a more severe form of the original virus."
 Burness noted incidences of small children suffering longer this year from cold and flu symptoms. One possible reason he cited for this pattern is that some dual-income families might not be able to take many extra days off when children are sick, so children may not be completely well when they return to school or daycare.
 In cases where individuals or families are un- or underinsured, Burness noted that parents will almost always seek proper medical treatment and medication for their children. But they may intentionally neglect themselves in order to save on out-of-pocket doctor and pharmacy costs.
 "Many senior citizens and others on fixed incomes ask us to check for a generic form of their prescribed medication. If it's unavailable, they frequently say 'forget it' altogether," said Burness. So those people may opt not to take anything.
 The Tendency to "Over-medicate."
 Just as some people may avoid getting prescribed medication for their illness, there's the tendency in others to "over-medicate," or increase the suggested dosage in hopes of a quicker recovery.
 "If a prescription, or over-the-counter product, instructs dosage at two tablets every four hours, we see people who take three tablets in hopes of knocking the bug out sooner," said Burness. "What this does is create symptomatic side effects -- perhaps dizziness, palpitations, headaches -- which lead the person to believe he's really getting worse. So he may increase dosage even further." It's a vicious cycle, said Burness.
 Suburban Flu Outlook for Next Few Months.
 Montgomery County flu patterns seem to be getting still worse as winter progresses, said Burness. But another pharmacist in the Frazer store of Gary's cited a decrease in cases in the Chester County area.
 "It could have been the holiday time off," said Elaine Sturm, pharmacist at "I Got It At Gary's" Frazer store, "but I've seen a definite decrease in flu symptoms, especially in area children."
 For those people who do suffer symptoms longer, Sturm said she usually sees the same few families coming in again and again.
 Sturm did note that this year, adults are more likely to rely on over-the-counter products than seeing their doctor.
 "If people are scouting for a good over-the-counter remedy, I always recommend a medicine that treats a few very specific symptoms, not a multisymptom product. Multisymptom medicines load your system with too much unnecessary medication," she said.
 Precautions against the Flu.
 Though Sturm admitted there are no "wonder drugs" for colds or flu, she did make suggestions for averting winter sickness:
 -- Keep a healthy humidity level in the home;
 -- Get daily amounts of fresh air;
 -- Keep your system hydrated -- drink plenty of fluids (they flush out the body's impurities);
 -- Correct any diet imbalances;
 -- Get adequate levels of sleep and exercise (inadequate amounts can lower the body's resistance);
 -- Take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement (adults); and
 -- Avoid excessive or prolonged amounts of stress (it lowers resistance).
 An area pediatrician, Dr. Michael Harkness of Wade-Townend Pediatric Associates, Paoli, Pa., strongly advocated good hand-washing, especially for parents. "Though I also advocate proper vitamin nutrition for children, I don't believe a regular vitamin will prevent the flu," Harkness said.
 -0- 1/10/92
 /Editors: Additional area physicians contacted for this article were so overwhelmed with flu patients that they were unable to grant a timely interview./
 /CONTACT: Christine Owsik of McAdams, Richman & Ong, 215-667-8900, for "I Got It At Gary's"/ CO: "I Got It At Gary's" ST: Pennsylvania IN: REA SU:

1535 -- PH024 -- 8745 01/10/92 16:21 EST
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Date:Jan 10, 1992

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