Winter is Coming: Staying Healthy
By Jasen Chau, PharmD, AAHIVP, APh, Assistant Professor
This winter, people could contract “flurona,” a disorder known as COVID and the flu at the same time. This is just an additional reason for getting both the influenza and COVID vaccines. There are currently booster vaccinations for the coronavirus Omicron variant available. It is advised that individuals 65 and older have the adjuvant or the higher dose of the flu vaccine, rather than the normal dose. According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, elderly people have a six-fold increased risk of having a heart attack within seven days of getting the flu. This increase in symptom severity, with the potential for a greater requirement for ventilation, may result in death. It’s essential to differentiate between the flu and COVID symptoms and their characteristics. For accurate diagnosis and to begin treatment as soon as practical:
- COVID Symptom: fever or chills (> 100°F), sore throat and cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, runny or stuffy nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea
- Flu Symptoms: fever and chills, muscle aches, sore throat, and cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, fatigue, feeling bad “hit by a truck”
The United States is experiencing a post-Thanksgiving spike in incidence and hospitalizations following a fall-season COVID-19 lag. It’s crucial for people to take preventative action, which includes testing whenever they experience COVID-19 symptoms or an exposure, as well as before social gatherings with individuals at high risk of developing a serious illness, such as those over 65, those with underlying medical conditions, or those who are immunocompromised. If accessible, a thermometer and pulse oximeter are usually useful for accurate diagnosis, as well. People who have already been exposed to COVID may contract it again. People are susceptible to re-infection or rebound, but with milder symptoms, especially if they have received vaccinations. Long COVID is a serious problem that persists for months after an initial infection and can be quite debilitating. Long COVID is defined by the World Health Organization as having fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog for at least two months without any other known reasons. People with at least six COVID symptoms were more likely to experience prolonged COVID, which could have an impact on daily activities and mental health. Washing hands often, using protective masks, and taking antivirals like Paxlovid can reduce the chance of death and help keep individuals out of the hospital. Acetaminophen, cough drops, throat lozenges, and Tamiflu are medications that are also available. Everyone should stay healthy by getting plenty of sun, involving physical activities such as walking or jogging, getting more than six hours of sleep each night, and drinking plenty of water. Soups can help with hydration, relieve congestion, and aid in the excretion of mucus. Avoiding smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, with proper diet may also help.