The 2022 cold and flu season has brought additional challenges with the influx of RSV and continued existence of Covid-19. Reports share that the number of flu cases is nearly 10 times higher than it would be during this time of year, and RSV cases are nine times higher than they’ve seen in the past five years. The Fall and Winter seasons are typically filled with school events, office parties, family gatherings, and so much more- all perfect opportunities for germs and illnesses to spread if precautions aren’t taken.
Biden administration officials say they are confident this year’s surge in RSV seems to have peaked in most parts of the country, and there are early signs that flu hospitalizations (use this tool to view confirmed cases) may have also peaked, both remain near levels as bad as some of the worst previous seasons on record. Add to it that new cases of Covid-19 are rising nationwide (+13.8% WTD), and it becomes the perfect storm for exposure to viruses and an overwhelmed healthcare system.
While the CDC and medical providers highly recommend wearing a mask while indoors, especially in areas that have high levels of COVID transmission (check levels in your county and read recommendations, here), the CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky says “One need not wait on CDC action in order to put a mask on. We would [also] encourage [other] preventive measures. . . during respiratory virus season, but especially in areas of high Covid-19 community levels.”
Here are some simple ways to protect yourself and your loved ones during cold and flu season.
- Wash. Your. Hands: It may seem simple, and like a no-brainer, but it is a scary fact that only 66% of people wash their hands after using the restroom. . .so consider how many people don’t regularly wash their hands throughout the day! Washing your hands with soap and water is the easiest way to remove any germs that you may have come into contact with; if you don’t have access to soap and water, hand sanitizer is a good option as well. Make sure you wash your entire hand for 20-seconds, and focus on washing every finger, as well as the nails.
- Get Your Flu Shot: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), everyone who is at least 6 months old should get a flu shot. It may not be fail-safe, but getting a flu shot can significantly lower your risk for developing the flu and even lessen its severity if you do get it. According to the CDC, “there are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. A flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.” Even if you end up getting sick from a flu strain that isn’t targeted by the flu shot, getting the flu shot will prevent your symptoms from being as severe than if you had not received the shot.
- Keep Your Hands Off Your Face: Touching your face with dirty hands is one of the easiest ways to introduce germs to your system. The eyes, nose, and mouth are perfect doorways for germs to enter and cause illness. To protect yourself, be conscious of what you do with your hands- even try to use a stress ball if the habit of touching your face is a form of fidgeting.
- Disinfect: Cold viruses have been shown to survive on indoor surfaces for approximately seven days. Flu viruses, can stay active from around a few minutes, up to 24 hours. To reduce the likelihood of contracting an illness from touching germ-laden surfaces, disinfect areas with high traffic, like door knobs, computer keyboards, phones, and even steering wheels.
- Keep Away: This works two ways- if you start feeling sick, stay home. Don’t expose others who may be at high risk of developing complications. Stay away from others until any fevers break and symptoms lessen. If you have the flu, you can be contagious from one day before symptoms show up, up to 5-7 days after symptoms appear. Kids can be contagious even after symptoms disappear. Keeping your distance also works as prevention; since people can be contagious before and after symptoms are obvious, creating a bubble around yourself is one great way to avoid germs. I know it may sound cold and hard to do around the holiday season but keeping everyone healthy is the ultimate goal. To that end, opt to skip the kiss and hug at social events and gatherings. Secondary perk: you’ll also be able to pass on wet kisses and cheek tweaks from well-meaning Aunts and Uncles!
- Don’t Spray It: If you sneeze or cough, use your elbow, sleeve, or tissue to prevent germs from spreading- airborne germs are the #1-way germs are spread. If you forget and use your hand. . .wash right away to help keep others from potentially getting sick.
There’s nothing worse than missing all the holiday fun because you’re sick. Take a few minutes to protect yourself and others and this year can be a healthy one for everybody.