Simple Precautions Provide Powerful Protection Against Winter Viruses, Including Flu, RSV and COVID-19

By Yasuko Fukuda, MD

With influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and COVID-19 currently circulating in California, it is important for families to take precautions to stay healthy this winter, especially when it comes to indoor gatherings, like shopping and holiday celebrations.

Respiratory infections are on the rise, and we are still seeing patients end up in the Emergency Room. Sadly, at least two children under age five have died from RSV in California, according to public health officials. We need to remember that young children are vulnerable to severe complications from COVID-19, RSV and the flu, especially if they have underlying conditions or were born premature. And with COVID-19 activity still increasing in California, it is important for families of all ages to keep their guard up and take simple yet powerful precautions against all winter viruses. Just in time for the holidays, the bivalent dose is now available for infants and toddlers 6 months of age and older, which means the whole family can get the updated vaccine.

These five tips will help you protect yourself and others from severe illness and hospitalization:

  1. Get Vaccinated, Boosted (and Treated) – Flu and COVID-19 vaccines continue to be your best defense to limit severe illness and death – and you can get both at the same time. If you test positive for COVID-19, contact your doctor or a test-to-treat site immediately to seek treatment. COVID-19 treatment is recommended for the majority of adults and anyone 12 years and older with certain experiences and conditions and works best when started right after symptoms begin.
  2. Stay Home if You’re Sick – It’s crucial to stay home if you are feeling ill. Avoid close contact with others to protect them and take the time you need to heal. This is especially important for respiratory viruses like the flu, RSV and COVID-19, which can lead to more severe illness.
  3. Wear a Mask – Wearing a mask in indoor public places is a good way to limit the spread of germs. To get the most out of your mask, pick one with a good fit and filtration. The rule-of-thumb is surgical masks are good, KN95 or KN94 masks are better, and N95 are best.
  4. Wash Your Hands – Frequent handwashing, with soap and warm water – for at least 20 seconds, is an easy way to prevent getting sick.
  5. Cover Your Cough or Sneeze – Germs can travel far! Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, your arm, or a disposable tissue.

While these tips may seem simple, they combine to form powerful protection against all the winter viruses affecting our state, helping to keep you and your loved ones safe from severe illness and out of the emergency room.

As the weather gets cooler and we head indoors for family celebrations, please do all you can to avoid these winter viruses. You have the power to limit your exposure by taking the simple precautions outlined above. Stay healthy this winter so you can enjoy the season with your loved ones.

For more information about the flu, visit the CDPH Influenza Resource page. To find a flu or COVID-19 vaccine location near you, visit My Turn – California COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling & Notifications.

Yasuko Fukuda, MD, is a pediatrician based in San Francisco and is a Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Fukuda received her Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, where she majored in both Immunology and Microbiology, and in the Japanese language. She attended Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota and followed with pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Oakland. She has been in private practice for more than 22 years.

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