Between rising Covid cases, RSV, and various strains of the flu, it may appear as though everyone you know has been sick recently – and for many, their symptoms seem to be taking forever to resolve. People are determined to travel, gather, dine out and enjoy cultural events after missing so much over the past several years – by using the tools we have, we can enjoy the season while also minimizing the risk, especially for vulnerable loved ones.
Hopefully, all your near and dear are fully vaccinated for Covid and the seasonal flu; a recent bivalent booster can help also protect against severe illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the booster be given at least two months after the last vaccination or Covid infection and some doctors recommend waiting three months.
When preparing to travel or gather with friends and family, pay close attention to how you feel. The latest Covid variant symptoms may include sore throat, congestion, cough, fatigue, headache and muscle pain. Loss of taste and smell is less likely with the sub-variants of Omicron, but still important to note. If you feel sick, stay home – even if you test negative.
When gathering with elderly loved ones, young children or those with a compromised immune system, it is recommended that guests test just prior to getting together. Perhaps the host makes it a fun little testing party outdoors around a fire pit, or in the garage with a heater – as long as there is good air circulation. Wearing a mask in public indoor spaces in the days leading up to a family or friend gathering also makes sense. Masking on planes, in airports, on trains, at the mall, and in public bathrooms can lower the risk of catching one of the viruses that are circulating. Whether in public bathrooms or at home, it’s beneficial to close the lid of the toilet before flushing to avoid circulating particles.
At home, when people are coming and going you can help reduce everyone’s chance of getting sick by frequently washing hands, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and improving air circulation by occasionally cracking a window or using a portable air purifier. We have all become fatigued by pandemic protocols, but numbers are undeniably rising and hospitals are filling up again. A few basic precautions can help keep those we love safe and healthy – a gift they will enjoy well into the New Year.