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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(2):245

This winter's assortment of viruses promises to fill the waiting rooms of family physicians with patients who have fevers, coughs, sore throats, runny noses, aches and pains, and other symptoms of colds or flu. This issue of AFP provides a collection of patient information handouts that you may want to add to your survival kit for this winter. Starting on page 375, you'll find five handouts that can help your patients understand their respiratory symptoms and the appropriate treatment. One handout explains the difference between flu and colds, one discusses the influenza vaccines, one describes acute bronchitis, one explains the proper use of antibiotics, and one discusses the causes and treatment of sore throat.

AFP's patient information collections are harvested from handouts previously published with individual articles. Our patient information editors search for handouts on important topics, update them, and collect them into groups for your convenience. Most of AFP's patient information handouts originally accompany the clinical review articles in the journal and are written by the same authors as the article. These handouts go through review and editing by AFP's staff of physician editors. The handouts also go through peer review by family physicians. The professional staff editors tailor the handouts to the appropriate reading level for the average patient. Experts now believe that patient information should match the fourth-grade reading level in order to best serve most patients. Our editors look for ways to simplify the language to this level.

What you may not know is that many of AFP's patient information handouts are also available online at the American Academy of Family Physician's consumer-oriented Web site: Handouts that are placed on the site undergo regular review and updating. This site has recently been redesigned, and if you haven't visited there lately, you might want to take a look. There you will find printer-friendly versions of patient information handouts, Spanish versions for many handouts, and other resources. The site offers additional handouts on colds, flu, and other respiratory infections, as well as many other topics.

In preparation for this season's onslaught of viruses, you may also want to read the “Practical Therapeutics” article on the treatment of acute bronchiolitis associated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), on page 325. The author, Robert William Prasaad Steiner, M.D., Ph.D., University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, Ky., notes that the peak incidence of RSV infection occurs in children younger than 12 months, between the months of January and February. Bronchiolitis related to RSV is the leading cause of hospital admission in infants younger than one year, and three months is the mean age of infants with RSV who are hospitalized.

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