Respiratory infections are on the rise How can you stay healthy?
by elizabeth manning alaska department of health
You may have heard from friends, family, your doctor, or the media that this winter may be a particularly bad respiratory illness season and that children and older adults are particularly at risk. What does this mean, and how can you protect yourself and your family?
Winter is a common time for respiratory infections to spread because people spend more time indoors, allowing viruses to pass more easily from one person to another. Also, many respiratory viruses live longer in winter when temperatures are cold, and the humidity is low. Here are some simple things everyone can do this winter to stay healthy so we can continue to go to work, school and spend time with friends and family.
Some basic home-care instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are: • Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Never give aspirin to children.) • Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids). • Talk to your health care provider before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children. • Watch out for severe illness. Most people with common respiratory diseases can recover at home but if you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice.
What else is important to know about these diseases? RSV (Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus): Most people will get RSV at least once in their lifetime, with most children getting an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old. For more people the illness causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but it can cause inflammation in lungs or pneumonia in babies and very young children. If you think you or your child have RSV, the best thing to do is to call your health care provider or local public health center. It’s especially important to call a doctor if someone is having difficulty breathing, not drinking enough fluids, or experiencing worsening symptoms. There is a medicine, palivizumab, that can be given as a series of monthly shots during RSV season to children who are at risk for severe illness, like premature infants and young children with certain heart and lung conditions. Talk to your provider if you think your child is at risk for severe RSV infection.
Flu: The best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications is by getting vaccinated each year. Anyone age six months or older should get the flu vaccine annually, and it’s still not too late to get vaccinated! Those at higher risk of getting severe flu include: 1) Pregnant women and children under 5 years of age; 2) People 65 years and older; 3) Adults and children who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. It’s especially important for people who are at high risk for severe flu disease to get vaccinated annually and to know about influenza antiviral drugs. Flu antiviral drugs work best when started early, such as one or two days after your flu symptoms begin, so if you’re at higher risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately. COVID-19: Fortunately, we have vaccines that protect people well against severe illness from COVID-19. If you haven’t already received the updated bivalent booster formulated to protect against the newer variants, check to see if you’re due. If you completed your primary series of COVID-19 vaccines at least two months ago and haven’t received the updated booster yet, you’re eligible! If you have symptoms of COVID-19, it’s important to get tested immediately. Those who test positive should isolate for at least 5 full days after their symptoms start (or positive test result if you don’t have symptoms) and notify contacts who may have been exposed. Oral antiviral pills that fight COVID-19are free, widely available, and effective at preventing severe disease – and many Alaskans are eligible. If you get COVID, don’t wait until you get worse. Call a health care provider as soon as possible to find out if medications are right for you. If you do not have a health care provider, you can call the State’s COVID Helpline at 907-646-3322 or contact your local Public Health Center for guidance. Find more information at covidrx.alaska.gov.
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