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Medical Minute: Staying healthy during respiratory illness season

In this Medical Minute video below, Dr. Jason Marker, associate director at the Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency program, breaks down what you need to know to stay safe and healthy heading into respiratory illness season. He explains how the flu, RSV and COVID-19 might make you feel, prevention strategies, potential treatments and when you need to call your doctor.

lt’s respiratory illness season again, and I’m here to talk about strategies for you and your family to stay safe and healthy during the months ahead.

More than just colds, we need to talk about the so-called “tripledemic” of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 infection. Today, I want to quickly cover prevention strategies, ways to sort out one illness from another and what you can expect for treatment along with a quick discussion of how you know when it’s time to call your doctor.

Prevention strategies
Let’s start with prevention. Certainly, vaccination is the cornerstone of your prevention strategy, so getting your flu shot and your COVID-19 shot are really important. And for some, especially adults over 65, your doctor might recommend a pneumonia shot.

Beyond that, good hand-washing hygiene, keeping your hands off of your face, avoiding those who are visibly ill with a respiratory illness and wearing a mask when you’re feeling under the weather to avoid spreading whatever you have to anyone else are really great strategies.

Sorting symptoms
How do we sort these illnesses out from one another? RSV typically causes the worst runny nose that you or your child have ever had. Influenza and COVID-19 infections frequently start with a fever, cough and feeling like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck.

Colds are, well, colds, but often all of these have overlapping symptoms that make it hard to sort out. Luckily, many of the offices within Beacon Medical Group have point-of-care testing for influenza, RSV and COVID-19 infection. Getting tested is an important strategy that rapidly can tell us what we can do to help you out.

What can you expect from treatment? Well, these are all viral illnesses and so antibiotics won’t help them. But we do have some effective treatments for influenza and COVID-19 infection and these are most effective when started in the first couple of days of the illness.

When should you call your doctor?
If you’ve had a high fever that won’t go away you are or you are becoming short of breath, or you’re just generally getting worse over time, that would be a good time to pick up the phone and call, especially if you have underlying medical conditions which might predict your outcome could be worse than someone else.

Your doctor’s office might recommend an in-person visit, a telehealth visit or a trip in just to get some testing done so we’ll know whether we have some treatment options for you or whether a tincture of time and chicken soup and a few days in bed might be the best thing for your recovery.

I wish you well and good health through the season ahead. Be in touch with your doctor’s office, wash your hands often, and get your vaccines.