Enjoy holiday cheer and avoid common viruses.
The holiday season can often be hectic, and to-do lists can get long. The holiday season is unfortunately also the time many people get sick. Illnesses caused by a virus tend to spike in the winter when people are gathering inside more often. Common viruses this time of year include:
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The virus affects breathing passages and can cause deadly complications for vulnerable groups like older adults and infants. In a typical year, about one-third of the population gets RSV, and most children have been infected at least once by age 2. Last year, RSV hit especially hard, as people moved on from the strategies of the COVID-19 pandemic (like masking and social distancing), and infants and many young children were exposed to the virus for the first time.
- Influenza. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that mutates every year. The same factors that lessened RSV infections for two years decreased flu cases by almost three-quarters too, but it has bounced back to previous levels with the end of those restrictions. While typically mild, the flu kills at least 20,000 people each year and should be taken seriously.
- COVID-19. The global pandemic is over, but this virus remains very much in circulation and can be dangerous to vulnerable people.
How to Avoid Seasonal Illnesses
Getting sick slows you down and prevents you from enjoying the festivities. These tips can help you avoid infection.
- Avoid close contact. Keep your distance from those who are sick to avoid catching a virus. Consider wearing a mask in crowded places.
- Clean your hands. Frequently wash your hands to help protect yourself from germs.
- Clean surfaces. Disinfect “high-touch” areas like handles and switches where viruses and germs can live.
- Avoid touching your face. Don’t touch your nose, mouth or eyes after touching surfaces.
- Get seasonal vaccines. Viruses change every year. Receiving the most recent vaccine can help antibodies develop and protect you against that year’s strain. The flu and COVID both have seasonal vaccines widely available. An RSV vaccine was approved in the Spring of 2023, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest adults 60 and older should discuss receiving it with their healthcare provider.
While they can be dangerous, RSV, the flu and COVID-19 are typically mild and can be treated at home. These steps can help you weather the infection:
- Alleviate fever and pain. Over-the-counter fever and pain medications can help with discomfort from symptoms.
- Hydrate. Drink enough fluids to recover loss of fluids.
- Talk to a doctor. Schedule a consultation if symptoms persist.