By PJ Martin
Tis the season, the one with the colds and flu spreading around. But this season has been a bit more concerning. Instead of colds and flu, clinics and hospitals are seeing Covid, flu, and RSV. They have also reported seeing an upper respiratory virus that produces bouts of coughing.
We have all been bombarded with Covid information for the last three years, but you probably haven’t heard as much about the flu (influenza) or RSV lately.
Fever, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, and a cough can be symptoms of many different infections, but if they come on suddenly they tend to point to the flu according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC also reports that people 65 and older tend to not worry about or go to a doctor for a fever, sore throat, or cough so it isn’t diagnosed as quickly.
That explains why 50 – 70 percent of seasonal-flu-related hospitalizations are older adults and why 70 – 85 percent of seasonal-flu-related deaths occur in people 65 and older according to the CDC.
Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine report that anyone over 65 with a condition such as heart disease or diabetes should not wait. They should see a doctor as soon as symptoms begin to prevent more serious consequences.
A fever of 100.4 F or more, shortness of breath, or fast breathing, can be serious for someone over 65 and should be seen by a doctor. These symptoms also contribute to dehydration which can lead to dizziness, confusion, a fast-beating heart, dry eyes, and dark-colored urine.
They add that a person under 65 who is reasonably healthy may only have the flu which can be treated by over-the-counter medications.
What is RSV?
RSV or respiratory syncytial virus is a common contagious virus that usually shows mild symptoms; however, in some older adults or those with compromised immune systems, it can cause severe infections.
You have probably heard about RSV and how dangerous it is for infants in their first 6 months. Babies have the highest risk and usually end up in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) or ventilated, because of serious breathing issues.
RSV can spread more during certain seasons. According to the CDC, most regions see a rise in cases from mid-September to mid-November with a peak from late December to mid-February.
RSV exhibits the same symptoms as other respiratory infections: fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, congestion, and a cough.
It can be easily spread by a cough or sneeze. Typically, the contagious stage lasts 3 – 8 days, but people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for as long as 4 weeks. Even after symptoms have disappeared.
What can you do to lessen your chances of getting sick?
The Mayo Clinic lists the following measures to lower the spread of infection:
Wash your hands – Wash your hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Make sure friends and family that you’re around regularly, especially kids, know the importance of hand-washing.
Avoid touching your face – Keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth helps keep germs away from those places where germs can enter the body.
Cover your coughs and sneezes – Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. Then wash your hands.
Clean surfaces – Regularly clean often-touched surfaces to prevent the spread of infection from touching a surface with the virus on it and then your face.
Avoid crowds – The flu and other infections spread easily wherever people gather in numbers. By avoiding crowds whenever possible during peak virus season, you lower your chances of infection.
When possible avoid anyone who is sick. Also, if you become sick stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to reduce your chance of infecting others.