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Live webchat with Dr Dawn Harper this Friday, 4 Sept, at 1pm

(79 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 02-Sep-09 11:46:28

Hello, we're kicking off our post-hols webchats by welcoming Dr Dawn Harper this Friday at 1pm.

Dawn's a part-time GP in Gloucestershire and you may well have seen, read or heard her giving medical advice because she's a regular on lots of programmes and in the press.

She's married to another GP, they have three children and in her spare time (she has any?), she's a backing vocalist for a Motown/70s dance band.

She's joining us for a timely chat, sponsored by Kleenex Anti-Viral Tissues, about how to avoid catching colds and flu, and how to prevent them taking out whole families if one of you gets a horrid lurgy.

Because of tight timing, Dawn won't be able to answer advance questions, but we're checking if she can answer any that she doesn't get to during the webchat afterwards.

Hope you can join us.


alypaly Wed 02-Sep-09 14:02:29


DrDawnHarper Wed 02-Sep-09 16:09:45


DrDawnHarper Thu 03-Sep-09 09:55:48

thank you Geraldine

rubyslippers Fri 04-Sep-09 09:03:38

may not be able to post but if there is time would be interested to know whether those sprays and things which promise to kill 99.9 % of bugs are any good?

also, what is the point of anti bac hand gel when viruses are on the loose - surely good hand washing is the best thing?

thanks smile

StripeySuit Fri 04-Sep-09 11:18:20

Does it help for an ill person to be confined to a room or does traipsing in and out with supplies etc help spread viruses anyway?

UnquietDad Fri 04-Sep-09 12:48:37

My mother is obsessed with the children hand-washing "properly" all the time, i.e. between fingers and backs of hands too. Is she right or does she fuss too much?

And I say, that is a gorgeous photo. grin

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 04-Sep-09 12:57:59

Hi, Dr Dawn Harper will be online shortly to answer any questions you've got about colds and flu, and the best ways to stop them spreading.

morningpaper Fri 04-Sep-09 12:58:28

Can you tell me the correct procedure involving alcohol gels and handwashing?

What is the best way to teach one's children's hands of germs without turning them into Lady Macbeth?

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 12:58:31

Hello Unquiet Dad - I'm afraid for once mum probably is right! Most germs are spread via our hands and simple washing wit soap goes a long way to keeping bugs at bay. Between the fingers and the base of the nails are common places to be missed.

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:00:30

Hello Morning Paper
I know what you mean - you don't want to turn your children into neurotics but hand washing before eating and after visiting the toilet is a good habit to teach them. Soap and water are effective against most of the bugs but if they aren't available then an alcohol hand wash will do the same thing

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:01:51

Welcome to mumsnet Dawn smile.

I have two questions:
To keep a child's high temperature under control, should ibuprofen and paracetamol be used alternating, or one or the other?

Would you recommend vitamin supplements for children during the winter months? What about for a breastfed baby?

StripeySuit Fri 04-Sep-09 13:03:04

What are these Kleenex Anti-Viral Tissues all about? A tissue's a tissue innit?

hairycaterpillar Fri 04-Sep-09 13:03:34

Seriously anti-viral tissues...surely there cannot be any evidence base to show they are any better than just normal tissues being disposed of hygienically?

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:03:40

Hello ruby slippers
To be honest I don't mind whether people use soap and water or sanitising gels - both will do the trick. As for looking after ill people - you can minimise the spread of infection by cleaning hands and surfaces regularly and coughing or sneezing into a tissue and disposing of it immediately. Viruses can live for up to 24 hours in an ordinary tissue but 99.9% of them are killed within minutes in an anti-viral tissue so worth considering if you are out and about

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:05:23

Hello hairy caterpillar 0 you are right - if tissues are disposed of hygenically and quickly then that is good enough but in fact viruses can live for up to 24 hours in an ordinary tissue so if it is left lying around it is possible that someone else could pick it up. It's not always possible to "bin it" immediately and that is where anti-viral tissues are useful

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:06:59

Hello Stripey Suit - the kleenex anti-viral tissue has a middle layer which traps and kills viruses within minutes of contact whilst an ordinary tissue will trap the virus but it could survive for up to 24 hours so could easily be passed onto anyone who touched that tissue

CMOTdibbler Fri 04-Sep-09 13:08:32

But surely the point of tissues is that you bin them after use, and it's not like the viruses are going to be jumping out of the bin are they ?

Any actual evidence for whether using antiviral tissues will actually cut down on transmission rates ? And the 99.9% figure is always suspicious to me smile

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:09:54

Hello Belgo - Bothe paracetamol and ibuprofen will help bring a child's temperature down so I often advise using them in alternation. There is some evidence that ibuprofen is slightly more effective so worth trying first. As for vitamin supplements - if you child has a good balanced diet he should be getting all the vitamins he needs without needing to supplement. In some cases there are specific indications for supplementing but unless your doctor has advised this I'm a firm believer in trying to get all a child's nutrition into him with food

plus3 Fri 04-Sep-09 13:10:44

is this just a rolling advert for kleenex?

dont you think too much concern over hygeine makes people less resistant to bugs and more prone to allergies? hence the vast increase in allergies in recent years, particularly in cleaner homes?

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:12:07

Thank you for answering my non-kleenex related questionsgrin

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:12:14

Hello CMOTdribbler - you are right - we should be disposing of tissues straigt away and that is the whole point of the "Catchit, Bin it, Kill it" campaign but there are times when that isn't always practical - like when you are travelling in which case an anti-viral tissue is a good solution. The viruses don't jump about you are right but it surprises most people to learn that 80% of bugs are passed by had not by coughs and sneezes so leaving dirty tissues around could leave other people exposed to your bugs

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:14:40

Hello oneopinioated mother (I like your nickname!) - there has been a lot of debate about our obsession with cleanliness and one theory for the rise in allergic diseases is that we have become too clean which has left our immune systems with something else to look for, and I'm not a fan of bleaching and disinfecting everything in sight but handwashing should be routine and is an important part of preventing the spread of coughs and colds from person to person

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:15:06

That's very interesting about the high number of viruses passed on by tissues being left around - would that be a case for going back to using old fashioned hankerchiefs, which should be keep in your pocket and not left lying around?

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 04-Sep-09 13:16:34

My dsister is due to give birth to much longed for twins in Oct and has been - understandably - very worried about swine flu during pregnancy and now swine flu once they're born. I remember being obsessed with my precious first born about visitors washing their hands before they touched her (London suddenly seemed so dirty!), but given that they're due in what might be the middle of a flu pandemic are there any other precautions she /her visitors should take to protect the babes (and her) from infection? For example can the virus live on clothes? Just thinking how we always pick up newborns and clutch them to our chests (clucky? moi?)- should we be disinfected/ change first if we've just come off the tube?

Also any particular advice about keeping colds and flu (and swine flu) at bay during last few weeks of pregnancy - should she be avoiding my snotty school-age children?


DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:16:36

Hi Plus3 - I hope not! This webchat is sponsored by Kleenex but I am not here to promote any products and would much rather answer any queries any of you may have related to coughs and colds

RubberDuck Fri 04-Sep-09 13:18:34

Recent research has brought up lack of vit D playing a part in avoiding a cold/flu. From memory though, there's not many foods that contain vit D naturally (eggs and dairy?) - given that our lack of sun in this country is legendary wouldn't it be worth supplementing for those children who can't or won't eat a great deal of dairy products?

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:19:24

Hi carriemumsnet - being a mum is always fraught with worry and being a new mum even more so. If your sister is planning to breastfeed her tiwns they will benefit from some of her antibodies which will help them in their early days. As for contact with health professionals - it should be routine practice for them to wash their hands before touching her babies. Your children will no doubt want to cuddle their new cousins but if they are full of cold delaying this is probably a good idea

WreckOfTheHesperus Fri 04-Sep-09 13:20:17

Hi Dr Dawn,

I was always told that you should keep your mouth closed outside on a cold day, if you have a sore throat, as the cold makes it worse.

It this true? And does getting cold really make a cold worse?
Thanks smile

RubberDuck Fri 04-Sep-09 13:20:23

Also, will you and/or your children be having the swine flu vaccine this winter.

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:21:07

Hi rubber duck - we certainly haven't had much sun this summer but in fact you need surprisingly little sun exposure to ensure enough vitamin D - even just 15-30 minutes a day should do the trick and whilst it may look cloudy out there the rays do get through

theseboobsaremadeformilking Fri 04-Sep-09 13:21:12

Is it ok to go swimming with a 15 month old who has a cold. My swim teacher said it was fine.

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 04-Sep-09 13:21:30

I meant more the steady stream of visitors fresh from the tube rather than hospital staff who I'd hope would be relatively sterile. Anything other than hand washing?

RumourOfAHurricane Fri 04-Sep-09 13:21:36

Hi there!

I am very sceptical about anti bac hand gels and tissues coated with special anti-lurgy ingredients. In fact, I believe studies have shown that the hand gels are ineffective and nothing really beats a proper wash of hands at regular points during the day.

Do you believe that the use of these gels has made us complacent [plus poorer] - when in reality we should be just using soap and water as it is just as good?

AddictedtoHeatmagazine Fri 04-Sep-09 13:22:27

Does going out with wet hair make you more susceptible to catching a cold?

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:23:49

Hello wreckofthehesperus - that's a new one on me! But there was some research from Cardiff a couple of years back that supports the old wives tale that you should wrap up warm if you go out in the cold to protect yourself from getting a cold. They found that people wit hcold extremeties were more likely to succomb to viruses and the theory is that if you are cold there is less blood supply to your nose and therefore fewer of the immune cells get to the nose which is where most bugs enter

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:24:55

Hello addicted to heat magazine - take a look at my answer to wrechofthehesperus - it could be possible that cold hair will make you more likely to catch a cold

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:25:32

shineoncrazydiamond - In my experience I agree with that - I have seen many health care workers replace good hand washing techniques with a splash of alco gel, and I cannot believe that to be as effective as good hand washing.

I also dislike alco gels because they dry out my skin and give me a rash. I would much rather wash my hands properly with soap and water.

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:26:15

Hello shineoncrazydiamond - Good old fashioned soap and water is perfectly effective and that's what we use at home but the gels do have a useful place when you are out and about

theseboobsaremadeformilking Fri 04-Sep-09 13:26:28

Is it ok to go swimming with a 15 month old who has a cold. My swim teacher said it was fine

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:28:52

Hello theseboobsaremadeformilking - to be honest he is unlikely to come to any harm but if he has a cold he probably doesn't feel his best and you are potentially just exposing others to his bugs. I would probably put it off this week and think of something else to do until he is back on form

RumourOfAHurricane Fri 04-Sep-09 13:29:31

Thank you Dr Dawn.

Belgo - I agree, yes. I refuse to use them in fact. Seems daft to me. I am not a compulsive hand washer or anything, but it seems to make sense to wash your hands after a supermarket shopping trip or putting the bins out or something. And I bet a lot of people don't.

WreckOfTheHesperus Fri 04-Sep-09 13:30:34

Thanks you. Also, my DD came home with umpteen colds from nursery last year, which she duly passed on to me and DP; is there anything preventative at all that we can do to reduce the number of colds that she catches?

And will all these colds have the effect of building up her immune system or weakening it?

StripeySuit Fri 04-Sep-09 13:32:30

Does it help for an ill person to be confined to a room or does traipsing in and out with supplies etc just spread the illness anyway?

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:32:58

Hi wreck of the hesperus - British adults can expect to get on average 2 or 3 colds a year whilst kids are more likely to get between 4 and 8 because their immune systems are not as well developed and there is an arguement that exposing them to bugs will help build their immune system but as there are over 200 viruses that cause coughs and colds (some of which change too) it is impossible to be immune to all of them. A good balanced diet, regular exercise and a good night's sleep all help boost the immune system

StripeySuit Fri 04-Sep-09 13:33:46

How long does virus sneezed into the air live for?

CMOTdibbler Fri 04-Sep-09 13:33:57

If my DS gets a cold, it always ends up as a chest infection. Is there anything we can do to stave this off this winter ?

AddictedtoHeatmagazine Fri 04-Sep-09 13:35:02

Thank you - so my mum was right - bah!

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:35:59

Hi Stripey Suit - I'm not sure what you mean - are yousaying that if you have a cold and go and about getting your supplies etc that you are potentially spreading your bugs around which is true but of course we have to be practical. In an ideal world, if you are poorly with a cough or cold, it is best to keep any innecssary travel to a minimum but I fully understand that life has to go on and if you have to go out then paying attention to the "Catchit, Bin it, Kill it" guidelines will help minimise spread

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:36:34

Would going swimming whilst ill with a cold not increase a sick child's chances of developing infections secondary to that cold, for instance an ear infection, due to the warm bug infested water having more of a chance to infect a susceptible child?

StripeySuit Fri 04-Sep-09 13:36:37

CMOT, my DP was just diagnosed with bronchiectasis and now has a simple physio exercise to clear her lungs everyday which makes it harder for infections to take hold.

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:37:43

Hi Stripe Suit - have a look at my answer to wreckofthehesperus but I would also say that if your child is struggling with lots of chest infections, do take him to your GP particularly if there is a family history of asthma as it could be that he has that tendency in which case your GP will be able to advise you on how to manage things

StripeySuit Fri 04-Sep-09 13:39:03

Sorry no, meant others in house 'visiting' you in 'confinement'? ie Is there any point trying to stay away from people you live with when ill?

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:39:26

Hi Belgo - some children are susceptible to ear infections following a cold. These tend to be middle ear infections also called otitis media. Swimming can increse the chances of an outer ear infection (otitis externa)

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:41:55

Hi Stripey Suit - oh I see! Sorry. If you are feeling pretty miserable with a cold some people like just being left alone but others like company and I don't think you have to put yourself in total solitary but I wouldn't go around hugging healthy friends and putting them at risk. A sneeze will leave your nostrils at over 90mph which means that anyone in a five foot radius could be infected, so if you are receiving visitors just keep them at arms length

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:42:02

Ok thank you for your answer.

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:43:35

I have another questionsmile.

Can you damage your nose by regular ferocious nose blowing?

WreckOfTheHesperus Fri 04-Sep-09 13:44:31

Thanks again! Is there any truth to the commonly-held view that you are at risk of catching all of your fellow passengers' germs when travelling on a plane, due to the same air being re-circulated?

CMOTdibbler Fri 04-Sep-09 13:44:49

Been back and forward to GP for 2 years - just seems that he is very mucousy once he gets a cold at the start of the season, and then that is it for the winter

I may try SS's suggestion to do preventitive physio - we had to do it to clear his massive chest infection a couple of years ago

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:44:52

Hi Belgo - you won't damage your nose but you could cause yourself to have a nosebleed

WreckOfTheHesperus Fri 04-Sep-09 13:46:17

Oooh,I've thought of another one smile; when are you infectious with a cold? A lot of people seem to think that you're only infectious for the first couple of days?

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:48:13

Hello wreckofthehespersu - I'm afraid while ever you are coughing or sneezing you should assume that you are infectious. There are over 100,000 potentially infectious droplets in a single sneeze!

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:49:23

Hello carriemumsnet - sorry I nearly missed your second question there. To be honest as long as your sisters twins are healthy simple hand washing shoul be all that is necessary

StripeySuit Fri 04-Sep-09 13:50:16

Thanks for answering!

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 04-Sep-09 13:53:27

While Dr Harper's drawing breath after that whistlestop typing marathon, want to say thank you for answering so many questions. Hope you've enjoyed it

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:56:12

Hello everyone - is there anything else I can answer for you before we wrap up?

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:56:41

Thank you Dawn, that was interesting.

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:57:13

Hell Belgo - you're welcome

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:57:50

Oops that should read hello not hell!

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 13:58:14

Very quickly, is it true that there is a wonder cure for all cold sore viruses but the pharmaceutical companies won't let on because they make so much money out of cold sore treatments?

RubberDuck Fri 04-Sep-09 13:58:33

You didn't answer my swine flu vaccine question?

"Also, will you and/or your children be having the swine flu vaccine this winter."

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 13:59:47

Hi Belgo - if there is I wish I knew about it! No I don't think so, I certainly haven't heard of it. The pharmaceutical companies are constantly working on this sort of thing though and if they ever found it I think they would be sitting on a goldmine so we would soon hear about it!

belgo Fri 04-Sep-09 14:00:55

grin thanks

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 14:01:45

Hi Rubber Duck - sorry what was it - I must have missed it. As for swine flu vaccine in my family - I always have the flu jab - I missed it one year and paid the price! I guess it's just an occupational hazard - if you see enough cases you are bound to succombe at some stage and I'm sure I will do the same with the swine flu vaccine

RubberDuck Fri 04-Sep-09 14:02:17

That was the one, thank you

DrDawnHarper Fri 04-Sep-09 14:10:19

Bye everyone and thank you for all your questions - I hope it has been helpful
Best wishes

UnquietDad Fri 04-Sep-09 14:38:31

thanks for the reply

rubyslippers Fri 04-Sep-09 15:01:21

thank you for answering my question

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