Q: It feels like so many different illnesses are going around. How can I continue celebrating the holidays without getting sick from being around people?
A: There are several viruses going around right now and some days it does feel like everyone is sick around us. COVID infections, the seasonal flu, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are the main ones we keep hearing about. RSV is a contagious virus that affects the lungs and breathing passages. All these illnesses have some similar symptoms, so it can be difficult to know who has what.
The main issue is how to avoid getting sick yourself while still gathering with friends and family to enjoy the holiday festivities. You can make decisions to reduce the risk as much as possible, and then be aware of your own symptoms and take care of your health as best you can.
Start by setting yourself up for success with a healthy daily routine that includes eating well, drinking plenty of liquids, getting adequate rest, and getting the right level of exercise or movement for your body. Wash your hands frequently. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Be sure you are up to date on all vaccinations, including the flu shot and COVID booster.
When considering a holiday gathering think about the level of risk at that event. If you can find events that are smaller, outdoors or with good ventilation, and where you know the people attending and can assess their risk, it will help reduce yours.
However, even in a setting where you cannot control much of the setup of the event, you can still find ways to help reduce your personal risk. You may choose to wear a mask for yourself, or sit in the outdoors section, and limit your amount of time at the party.
Consider asking close family and friends to create a new gathering just for them in a setting you feel comfortable in. Many people share the same concerns this time of year and will appreciate the thought behind changing the situation to allow for more safety from illness.
When shopping, consider adjusting the location or time of day to avoid crowds. You can shop online, as well, to avoid risk altogether.
Keep COVID tests on hand and test before and after gatherings. You can receive COVID-19 tests through your health insurance plan at no cost. Medicare also offers up to eight over the counter COVID-19 tests each calendar month, at no cost to you. To receive your free tests, call 877-777-1111.
If you start to feel symptoms, stay home and rest and take care of yourself. Be prepared to contact your doctor and know the location of the nearest urgent care, if needed. Even if you only have mild symptoms, you will want to stay home and avoid gatherings so as not to infect anyone else.
People with lowered immune systems and co-occurring medical disorders are more at risk for complications from these viruses. You cannot always tell who is more at risk, so it is best to assume everyone is and do what you can to protect your family and friends.
The holiday time may be full of get togethers and social occasions. Decide for yourself what feels safe, and balance ways to reduce risk with still enjoying the fun parts of the holidays that you most enjoy.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.