Flu Season: Fear of Illness

Health Watch is a Public Service of the University News Bureau and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.   



This week on Health Watch, we’ve been talking about flu season. Until medical science creates an effective drug to cure the flu, the best way to protect yourself is by being vaccinated and by washing your hands frequently. When people start coughing and sneezing around you, it can make you worry about your health, even if you’ve taken precautions.

Research has shown that something as common as a sneeze can cause us to overreact with fears for our health – even in ways that have nothing to do with a sneeze. Dr. Deborah Wiebe, a health psychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says physical symptoms like sneezes are cues that help us know our health is endangered, but it’s also easy to misinterpret these cues. Other people’s symptoms make us more aware of our own vulnerability and activate both conscious and unconscious fears. To keep yourself from overreacting, be aware of what you can do to protect yourself from disease.

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October 2011

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