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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Its Enough to Make You Sick, News Coverage of the Swine Flu

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 1st 2009

 I have noticed that no one has E. Mailed us with questions about the new bout of flu, called "swine flu." I don't know if that is because everyone is relaxed and unstressed about the news or are too upset to ask. So, I will be the first here on Mental Help.Net to discuss how the news media cause more stress than is necessary by providing contradictory information.

For example, out political leaders, from President Obama down to the Mayor of New York City and others around the nation assure all of us that if there is a health emergency it can be met and dealt with. Meanwhile, the media provide information about every child who comes down with the illness and about the schools temporarily closed to stem the spread of the virus. They also report, as they did this morning, that the World Health Organization is about to declare this illness a "pandemic." Wow, how reassuring!!!

instead of getting all stressed out about all of this I want to recommend taking the following actions. I am doing this because, as a psychotherapist, I know it feels better to do something than to be passive and feel helpless. Here are some common sense suggestions that I can think of and I invite everone to add to the list:

1. Wash your hands with soap and hot water as frequently as possible. Just go to work after riding the bus or subway? Wash your hands. Shook hands with a friend? Wash your hands. You see, sometimes it is helpful to be a bit obsessional. (I am grinning).

2. Have your children do the same type of repetitive hand washing and explain the reasons why. Teach yourself and your children to cover your mouth nose with a tissue when when you sneeze. Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough.

3. If you or a loved one feels like you are coming down with a cold, go to the doctor. If you have flu, follow the Doctor recommendations. Stay home until you are well or keep your children home until they are well. Do not ignore symptoms and be sensible.

4. Get plenty of sleep, eat fresh fruits and vegetables and get plenty of exercise. A healthy body makes for a healthy immune system and that protects against all of these viruses.

5. It is really the elderly and the infants most vulnerable to these viruses. So, get your infant to the pediatrician if he has signs of illness and get Grandma and Grandpa to the doctor as well.

6. None of us are perfect with this but try to avoid touching your face as much as possible.

7. Chicken soup is the best medicine sometimes.

Remember, this is simply another flu and, as with all of them, plenty of liquids to cool the fever and plenty of bed rest and not going out because you do not want to infect others, are the best way to handle things. It is the people who ignored symptoms who got more sick than necessary and that was in Mexico.

Instead of stressing, use good relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep muscle relaxation and others to calm yourself if you are getting upset from the news.

It just seems to me that, sometimes, the greatest the greatest threat to our health is...The News.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Don't Dismiss - Kim - Oct 12th 2009

Until recently I did like most people briefly glanced at the news about this “Swine Flu” epidemic back to haunt us. I thought hum, I know this is pretty bad but surely this isn’t as serious as they are telling us. Then I went to work and all my patients were popping up with this “Swine Flu”.Then I started thinking …ok let me do all the steps (Mask, yellow decontamination gowns, hand washing, vitamin C, and all the major precautions that the hospital recommends). People that still doesn’t protect you from the flu... I got it. A patient coughed directly on me. (There was nowhere to hide). Chicken soup is not a cure all by the way.  I recommend that you take the medication that the doctor gives you to the utmost direction. A fellow commentator noted:  “she wondered why there were 50 different flu’s out there”; it’s because people don’t take their medications correctly. Once you start to feel better that does not mean that you stop taking your medications. So word to the wise…Do what your doctors tell you! (Even when you feel like you’re about to fall off the planet from the Swine Flu. NASTY- Horrible STUFF)

Duck, and Cover ! - JR - Sep 2nd 2009

Truth is that, while reasonable steps to avoid catching Swine 'Flu should be encouraged, it will get around anyway.  The advice to schoolchildren in the '50s that they should dive under their desks in the event of an, er, all-out thermonuclear war might have advantages in some circumstances, but the main benefit in general would have been to help persuade the populace that "something was being done" - that they were not totally helpless (even if they were).

Certainly, Swine 'Flu has killed - but it hardly ranks alongside Nukes landing in the Neighborhood (something that seemed all too likely in my lifetime) as a serious threat to life.  Sensible government advice should be heeded - but sensibly.

By the way - I have a lot of time for Allan's "chicken soup solution".  I suspect that tomato soup may be pretty good, as well .

Best regards,


The Government - Cathy - Sep 1st 2009

This is the government's way of going a dry run in case of a real threat.  They introduce this stuff into the population and study the movement, traits of those who actually die, what medications may work, etc.  50 years ago you didn't have a new flu every year, so what does that mean?  You would not have seen as many deaths back then because there were not as many medically fragile people.  I have written my congress people more than once telling them that I do not approve of mandatory flu shots - as you can tell, I am sick of the government and we had the cable shut off on the tv and limit the internet to educational/reference rather than gossip and hype - you'll sleep a lot better and at least enjoy the time you spend on earth.

Hype - Lura - May 3rd 2009

i agree that the media is making this out to be far more than it is, in my opinion because there's nothing else going on like an election or a celebrity murder. I suffer from depression, severe at times, and was given some very good advice by my therapist on Sept 12, 2001. She reccomended that I limit the time I spend watching the news to ten minutes a day or less. on the news, it's fear that sells. I dont watch the news now unless it's on a passing tv or I'm waiting for specific information. I can be a little behind in current events, but I'm ok with that. (perfectly happy in my "blissful ignorance" I suppose!)

Swine Flu - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - May 2nd 2009

Hi Paula,Your son will not be put in isolation if it turns out that he has the flu. He might be given one of the newer anti viral medications, be told to stay home, stay in bed, drink lots of clear liquids and rest until it passes.What you can do and what everyone should do is: Clean all the door knobs in the house with disinfectant and do the same in the bathrooms, cover your mouths when you sneeze or cough and tell Brad to not kiss his girlfriend until he is over whatever type of virus he has.Dr. Schwartz

A worried mother! - Paula - May 1st 2009

With all this Swine Flu going about, it hasn't took long for it to get around the world! With it starting of in Mexico and being more cases reported every day, in different parts of the world, yet people are dropping like Fly's! Of course we are all worried! My son Brad attends College and he happen to come home on Wednesday, complaining that he did not feel to good, and when I asked him how he felt, he explained, that he felt as if he had the Flu symptoms! Aching all over, sore throat, headaches, chest feeling rather tight, coughing, sneezing, rather grey looking and just wanted to go to bed!Come Thursday, he was no different. What was i supposed to do, ring the Doctors Surgery, take him up to A&E, take him to the Walk in Centre? I just didn't have a clue? In the end, I phoned the out of hours Medical Services. (Bar-docks) I explained his symptoms and they said it was probably a viral infection that he had caught! Nevertheless, I was warned that I must make sure that he gets a Doctors home visit and not to take him anywhere to be checked out, incase it was the Swine Flu, then he would be passing this on to others, where ever I took him!What would of happened if it was the Swine Flu? Stuck him in hospital in Isolation? No wonder we are all worried to death! Just goes to show how fast something like this travels! 

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