Staying healthy during winter is a challenging task. It's even more difficult this year with reported increases in respiratory viruses. Those who remain well often take health precautions that protect themselves and those around them. You may have read our tips on celebrating healthy holidays, but rising sickness invites new instruction. It's time to gear up with our winter health kit.
Dr. Simon Payne, Regional Chief Medical Officer for Intermountain Healthcare, is your winter health hero. He provided a current respiratory situation rundown, as well as helpful guidelines.
"It's important we take steps to protect ourselves and our community as the number of cases may increase as the weather gets colder, and more people are spending time indoors together," said Dr. Payne.
General guidelines covered include:
- Stay up to date on your vaccines
- Stay home when you are sick
- Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
- Call your healthcare provider before going into an emergency department or urgent care
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Don't touch your face after touching contaminated surfaces
- Avoid sharing personal items, even with people you may know
Dr. Payne also stressed the importance of vaccines during this time. According to the CDC, this flu season could be the worst in years, and the vaccine is your best defense. The flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered simultaneously, and Dr. Payne encouraged both.
Even if you're equipped with COVID and flu vaccines, staying mindful of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is essential. Across multiple regions, RSV occurrences are spiking.
RSV symptoms include:
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty breathing
If you have these symptoms and your flu and COVID tests return negative, ask your healthcare provider about RSV. What may seem like a cold can be fatal.
"RSV causes respiratory tract illness in people of all ages, but infants, young children, and older adults are at greater risk of severe illness from RSV," said Dr. Payne.
Remember that winter health precautions need a team effort to improve community well-being. Dr. Payne said, "Together, we can do our part to stay informed and healthy."