Health Tips Tuesday: health officials concerned over rise in respiratory issues

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 7:23 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2022 at 8:50 AM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Health officials are concerned about a possible surge of respiratory illnesses this winter.

Dr. Brian Sutton, Medical Director at Baystate Health Urgent Care, discusses the best ways to protect yourself and your family as you prepare to gather for the holidays.

How best can you protect yourself from illness this holiday season?

Sutton: “As we have seen these past two COVID seasons, people should stay home if they upper respiratory symptoms. It behooves you to use hand sanitizer, stay six feet away from others, and the masking does help prevent the droplets spread from person to person.

What are the symptoms to watch out for to protect you and others in case you get ill?

Sutton: “We have seen a decrease in COVID and increase in other respiratory tract illness, including influenza. Unfortunately, there are a lot of crossover symptoms. Flu is typically body aches, fever, and chills and a sore throat or you can get those with the rhinovirus or the enterovirus or COVID-19, but there are treatments for COVID-19 or influenza if caught early enough.”

Are there key differences between the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, and a cold?

Sutton: “It’s been confounding because we have seen COVID on the rise. People have been coming in with a fever, headache, sore throat, which can mimic influenza. The hallmarks for influenza are a high fever, chills, and severe body aches that you don’t want to get out of bed with, but like I said, there is a lot of crossover.”

Are health officials more concerned about increased illness this holiday season as more people gather inside?

Sutton: “We are concerned because the influenza season has come up early and we saw that in the southern hemisphere. It will probably be more severe than we have saw in the past few seasons. We have been going back into society without the mask mandates where people are gathering in large crowds and we are seeing the transmission in our schools especially. We have seen RSV fill up our pediatric hospitals with sick kids throughout the country.”

“My advice to you is if you are sick stay home, get vaccinated against COVID, the most recent booster, and the flu vaccine. These are the best ways to prevent serious illness during the holiday season.”