Winter is still here, bringing with it a host of common symptoms such as cough, congestion, fatigue and fever.
Among respiratory viruses, COVID-19 causes the most hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC said that number was down from the previous week, when 37 states were infected.
There have been at least 16 million cases of respiratory illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 11,000 flu-related deaths so far this season since October.
The CDC says 47 children have died from the flu.
January is probably the worst month for these illnesses. During a time when vaccination rates are low, what can you do to protect yourself from respiratory viruses, including influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?
Hand washing remains critical to reducing the spread of viral infections. Take your time at the sink, 20 seconds is recommended.
If you feel uncomfortable singing “Happy Birthday” twice while scrubbing with soap and water, count slowly to 20.
When you don’t have soap and water, use hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol.
In addition, wear a mask when going to crowded places. Increase ventilation in the workplace and home.
In the United States, only 17% of eligible people have received the newer COVID-19 vaccines, which offer good protection against the currently dominant JN.1 variant.
It’s not too late to roll up your sleeves and expose your arms. When doing so, make sure you get your annual flu shot. RSV vaccination is recommended for people 60 years and older, and is also recommended during pregnancy to prevent RSV in infants.
Young children seem to catch every germ out there. Can your parents avoid getting sick?
This time of year, children stay indoors with other children and touch the same toys and surfaces, said Jennifer Sonny of the University of Washington School of Nursing in Seattle.
Some people haven’t learned to cover their mouths when they cough or haven’t been exposed to many illnesses, so their immune systems are still developing.
If you’re a parent or caregiver of a young child, it’s important to take care of yourself, adds Sonny, past president of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
“We know that if you don’t get enough sleep, are dehydrated or are under a lot of stress, it can compromise your immune function,” Sonny explains.
Raising young children is very demanding, “so all this advice has to be interpreted in a realistic context,” he added. “Despite doing everything right, kids still get colds.”
Special note if your baby is sick: It’s best to use saline solution and a baby nasal aspirator at home. They can be used to clear mucus from the small nasal passages.
Sonny says, “Put a few drops of saline in one nostril and suck it in, then apply it to the other side.”
“Doing this before eating and going to bed can help a lot.”
Household products for children may also include acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, tissues for a runny nose, and a water bottle or sippy cup to stay hydrated.
If you are sick, prompt testing can help determine whether you have COVID-19 or the flu.
It’s important to know if you need any medicines that can help prevent serious illness: Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 and Tamiflu to treat the flu.
If you don’t have a test kit at home, look for a treatment testing site at a pharmacy clinic or nearby health center.
A free at-home testing and treatment program is also available for adults who are uninsured or rely on government health insurance.