Protect yourself against respiratory illness this winter

With flu cases already on the rise, it's essential all Queenslanders take advantage of the free vaccination to protect themselves this flu season, AMA Queensland Vice President Dr Nick Yim told ABC Radio Wide Bay. "What I'm seeing coming through the GP practice is an increase of coughs and colds, and the statistics don't lie. At the moment, across the country there's been 45,000 flu cases, and in Queensland we've got a quarter of those."

Transcript: AMA Queensland Vice President, Dr Nick Yim, ABC Radio Wide Bay, Breakfast with Scott Lamond, Friday 10 May 2024

Subjects: Cold and flu season

SCOTT LAMOND: Have you been to the docs lately, or the chemist? Have you got that little sniffle, the sneeze? The change in the season, is that really what is responsible for that scratchy throat, that little cough? Let's have a health check now with Dr Nick Yim who is a Hervey Bay based GP, but he's also the AMA Queensland Vice President. So, this man is in the know. Good morning to you Dr Nick Yim.

NICK YIM: Good morning Scott and good morning everyone.

SCOTT LAMOND: Now am I right in saying there's been a spike?

NICK YIM: I guess it's one of those situations where the season is changing. It's getting cooler, I know the other night, it was the first time this year I've pulled on the doona. Just what I'm seeing coming through the GP practice is an increase of coughs and colds, and the statistics don't lie. At the moment, across the country there's been 45,000 flu cases, and in Queensland we've got a quarter of those. So, there is a rise in numbers of influenza.

SCOTT LAMOND: And is it a myth that when the season changes and temperatures drop, that we find the baddies creep in? Is there a lot of fact behind that?

NICK YIM: I think there's many, many factors behind it. Obviously when it does get cooler, we tend to socialise more indoors. People are probably rugging up more, and all those small little things come into play. I guess just to remind the audience, it's not just influenza. We've got a fair few other viruses around our community. That includes RSV, COVID, but it's a really good opportunity to start protecting yourself if you haven't done so already.

SCOTT LAMOND: So, what's some general advice around protecting yourself? Give us some tips when we're approaching maybe a trip to the chemist or trying to get a spot at the doctors.

NICK YIM: So, the great thing is, in Queensland, 900,000 Queenslanders have already had their flu immunisation and we know that immunisation is one of the best strategies to prevent influenza. AMA Queensland over the past couple of years, we've advocated really hard with the Queensland Government and the influenza shot is currently free for all Queenslanders. So please take up that opportunity, whether it be with your GP practice, and have that appointment to have that health check.  

SCOTT LAMOND: The cost of living crisis, does it creep in to how well we can take care of ourselves, whether it's purchasing a RAT, you know, those the rapid antigen tests that don't always come cheap, and even access to a doctor or things to make you feel better at the chemist?

NICK YIM: We're hearing from the community – cost of living, it's hurting everyone. So AMA Queensland has been working very, very hard with the State Government to address those issues, which is great. I guess with the influenza immunisation being free, it's great. So, you can access that because prevention is better than cure.

Obviously, there are other avenues where the State and Federal Government is trying to assist the population. There's some incentives to assist those parts of the community that are challenged financially, so concession card holders, pensioners and also children. So, there are strategies, but definitely we do need to put our health forward because if you're not well, it just means that we can't go to work, we can't care for our loved ones, etc.

SCOTT LAMOND: We don't see as many masks being worn, but is that something that you'd like to see more of?

NICK YIM: I think we learnt a lot of things through the COVID period. Obviously, there were lockdowns, but we also learnt many things where if people are unwell, if they're coughing, if they're sneezing, if they've got a temperature, please stay at home. Obviously if you are having signs and symptoms, if you are going to a place where you can't socially distance, please wear a mask and remember the basic tips of hand washing. Hand washing is really important as well.

SCOTT LAMOND: All right. Any final note notes for us to take down for this free health check that you're giving us this morning, doctor?

NICK YIM: I think the key thing is, one of the most important relationships is a good relationship with your general practitioner or a general practice. So, when those times are tough where you are feeling unwell, you can get those appointments with your general practitioner.

SCOTT LAMOND: And are the GPs feeling the strain of the increased demand at the moment?

NICK YIM: Yeah, we are feeling a bit of pressure, but it's the whole workforce. So, it's something where AMA Queensland is working with the State Government so we can work on a workforce plan. We all know that there's challenges in the hospital system with ambulance ramping, emergency doctors, nurses, pharmacists, allied health, and those are the key things that we need to plan moving forward. So, this is something that we are working on.

SCOTT LAMOND: All right well, keep working. Thank you for doing it for us and thanks for joining us this morning on ABC Wide Bay, doctor.

NICK YIM: Always a pleasure Scott.

SCOTT LAMOND: Thank you. Dr Nick Yim. He is the AMA Queensland Vice President and a Hervey Bay based GP.


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