As we enjoy the holiday season — the “most wonderful time of the year!” — another season is looming: flu season. The “peak month of flu activity” is the month with the highest rate of respiratory specimens testing positive for an influenza virus infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a 40-year period, that high point occurred 7 times in December, 6 times in January, and 17 times in February.
Instead of being caught by surprise if you get sick, let’s consider what you’ll do when you or a loved one gets the sniffles — or worse — this winter.
Experts encourage you to be prepared for the flu, the common cold, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Illness seems particularly predominant this year, as people are taking fewer precautions and aren’t wearing masks as often. Identify the closest urgent care to your house. Stock the pantry with your favorite “sick foods” (chicken noodle soup, anyone?) and the medicine cabinet with Tylenol and Motrin. Make sure you have plenty of tissues too!
It’s also important to have a plan in place to keep your family or roommates healthy if you fall ill. Think about how and where you’ll quarantine yourself. Remember that those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to whatever bug you catch!
Here are three tips to help you prepare for flu season.
1. Book your vaccine appointments as soon as possible.
If you haven’t already gotten your COVID-19 booster and your annual flu shot, make an appointment to do so today! Your immune system needs time to build up those antibodies before the peak month hits. These vaccines will decrease your chances of catching, spreading, and getting terribly sick because of both viruses. If you need an extra dose of motivation, potential consequences include pneumonia, heart issues, and long COVID, among many others.
2. Restock your medicine cabinet.
Let’s take a closer look at that medicine cabinet! Most individuals can treat cold, flu, and COVID symptoms with over-the-counter medicine. To start, declutter your back stock by throwing away any expired bottles. Next, make sure you have the following items on hand:
- a pain reliever and fever reducer, like acetaminophen
- a decongestant for stuffy noses
- a cough suppressant
- anti-nausea medication and antidiarrheals
Lastly, if anyone in your household has an underlying health condition that boosts their risk of severe COVID, make sure that rescue medications — like inhalers for individuals with asthma — are up-to-date.
3. Grab other sick-day essentials.
If you’re sick, you need to focus on rest instead of trekking to the grocery store and spreading your germs. Stock up now on everyday essentials like toilet paper, tissues, hand sanitizer, hand soap, and multi-surface cleaner. Additionally, you may want to invest in a humidifier and/or air purifier. Make sure you have a thermometer, pulse oximeter, and at-home COVID tests as well. These items are especially important if you prefer telehealth appointments with your primary care physician. The more specific you can be about your illness, the better!
Perhaps the best way to prepare for flu season, though, is to focus on prevention efforts.
Keep common sense safety practices top of mind. Something as simple as properly washing your hands can make a big difference! Avoid crowded indoor spaces if the risk of COVID is high in your area. And of course, stay home if you’re sick. If you don’t feel well or know you’ve been exposed to the flu or COVID, do not go to work or school until you’ve tested negative.
Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!
Reach out to Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care with all your healthcare needs. Come visit us at 2071 Dundee Drive in Winter Park.