With only 8% of children and 21% of adults reporting receipt of the 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine, less than half the population reporting receipt of a flu vaccine and just 20% of adults 60 and over reporting receipt of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, it’s no surprise that rates of respiratory illnesses are at elevated levels this season.
“Respiratory illness is all too common, particularly during colder months when people spend more time indoors and germs can spread more easily,” says Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer, American Lung Association. “Fortunately, there are many strategies for staying healthy.”
The American Lung Association is sharing everyday habits you can adopt to help avoid infection, along with information about available tools to help prevent severe illness:
- Wash your hands. Regularly wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water isn’t available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your cough and sneeze. Stop the spread of infection by using a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze. You can use your elbow if a tissue is not available.
- Keep your distance. Close contact with a person who is sick increases exposure to respiratory droplets containing a virus. Maintain your distance whenever possible.
- Stay home. In addition to staying home when you are sick, try your best to keep your distance from household members to help prevent them from getting sick.
- Clean and disinfect. When someone is sick at home, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces is especially important to help prevent the spread of illness.
- Consider wearing a mask. Wearing a mask helps provide protection against circulating viruses, and can help protect people at higher risk of serious illness. Effectiveness does vary depending on the virus and mask quality.
- Get up to date. Talk to your doctor to see if you and your family members are up to date on vaccinations. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. RSV vaccination is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older after having a discussion with their healthcare provider. Maternal RSV vaccination is recommended as an option to help prevent babies from developing severe RSV illness and is given during weeks 32-36 of pregnancy during September through January. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.
- Learn more about monoclonal antibodies. If you have an infant or are an expectant parent, ask your healthcare provider about a monoclonal antibody injection to help provide protection against severe RSV illness. This preventative antibody is recommended for infants under 8 months of age and babies between 8-19 months at increased risk of severe RSV.
- Get tested, if needed. If you do get sick, testing can help your healthcare provider determine which virus you have, and inform next steps such as treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about testing right away if you get sick, especially if you are at increased risk for severe illness.
- Seek treatment. Antiviral medications available for flu and COVID-19 may lower your risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death if started early and within the recommended treatment window.
For more resources, visit, lung.org/viruses.
To feel your best this season, adopt healthy habits. And if you do fall ill, take steps to get the right treatment.
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