The holiday season is a busy time of year, marked with social gatherings and travel plans that keep people on the move. It’s also a time when respiratory viruses like COVID-19, the flu and RSV tend to surge. Whether you're visiting loved ones or finally getting to enjoy a much-needed beach vacation, don’t let illness ruin the holiday season.
To stay healthy during this time of year, consider taking a few precautionary measures. Reyn Higa, MD a Family Medicine physician with Dignity Health Urgent Care in Northridge, shares tips to stay healthy during the holiday season.
Vaccines are now available to protect against COVID-19, RSV and the flu. Getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect yourself and loved ones from respiratory viruses.
According to the CDC, “everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine and updated COVID-19 vaccination this fall.” The CDC also recommends an RSV immunization for some groups at higher risk for severe RSV illness such as adults older than 60 and babies.
As the holidays bring more indoor gatherings and increased travels, viruses tend to spread more easily. If you’re gearing up to travel or anticipating spending time with friends and family, there’s still time to get your vaccines.
Masking continues to be a great way to prevent the spread of infection, especially when traveling. Using a high quality mask or respirator can mitigate the spread of viruses, especially when you find yourself in crowded areas with poor air circulation for an extended period of time, like public transportation. Wearing a mask can also help those who are more vulnerable to respiratory viruses by limiting the spread of germs.
Putting together a health kit for your travels is also a great way to get ahead of any healthcare needs you may have while you’re on the move. Make sure you are stocked with any prescription and over-the-counter medications you might need. Depending on where you’re headed, consider bug spray, SPF, hand sanitizer and tylenol.
Prevent the spread
If you do find yourself sick, stay home! The best way to protect others is by staying home if you’re feeling under the weather. If that’s not possible, do your best to isolate yourself while you’re recovering.
Remember to always cover coughs and sneezes in your elbow or with a tissue and always wash your hands. Washing your hands with soap helps kill viruses that may be living on the skin. If you aren’t able to get to warm water and soap, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% of alcohol will help kill germs.
You can also get tested for COVID-19, RSV and the flu. Knowing what you have will help you determine what treatment options you have and how long you should isolate to prevent others from getting sick. If you are concerned about your symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider.
If you test positive for COVID-19, medication should be started within 5 days of the start of your symptoms. Flu medication should start within 2 days. "The sooner you start medication for COVID-19 or flu, the better," says Dr. Higa.
The holidays are a festive and fun time of year but come with an increased risk of illness. To protect yourself and loved ones, consider the following actions:
- Get vaccinated against RSV, COVID-19 and the flu before holiday gatherings.
- Remember to wash your hands, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home if feeling sick.
- Mask-up on planes and trains as a preventative measure.
- Speak to your provider if you experience symptoms of either RSV, COVID-19 or the flu.
Despite being a busy time of year, try and get plenty of rest and stay hydrated to keep feeling your best. If you do become sick, speak with your healthcare provider if your symptoms worsen or continue for longer than two weeks. Our “Find a Doctor” tool can help you find a Dignity Health Medical Group physician near you.