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With the holiday season approaching and many people embracing pre-pandemic social norms, physicians anticipate an increase in COVID cases during flu season this year. These factors, combined with a spike in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in young children and a flu season that is hitting early and hard, mean that safety concerns will again be at the forefront of our minds when planning our holiday celebrations.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize risk and increase your odds of avoiding illness. Here are a few steps you can take to help you and your family stay safe and healthy this holiday season.
1. Take safety precautions while traveling
“If you’re in a public location such as an airport or a train station, wear a mask at all times,” said Evelyn Balogun, M.D., chief medical officer for Inspira Medical Group. “Face masks can help slow the spread of disease, and you still benefit from masking up even if others around you choose not to.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a high-quality mask that covers your nose and mouth while on public transportation, in transportation hubs and in poorly ventilated areas.
2. Scale back your guest list
To avoid spreading germs and getting sick, scale back your holiday celebration. You can minimize risk by planning a smaller gathering with nearby friends and family who follow CDC guidance. Celebrating with a smaller group of people means a lower likelihood of you or a family member getting sick this holiday season.
3. Plan ahead for safe shopping
“The closer you are to a greater number of people, the more likely you are to be exposed to a respiratory virus, such as COVID, the flu or RSV,” said Dr. Balogun. “Avoiding the holiday rush and crowded stores can reduce your chances of getting sick.” When shopping for holiday gifts or planning your holiday meal, opt for curbside pickup or complete your shopping online.
4. Rapid test before getting together
Rapid testing doesn't offer a 100 percent guarantee for all COVID variants, but it can reduce the spread of the virus at your holiday gathering. If you test negative but are experiencing symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, fever, chills, muscle aches, headache or fatigue avoid the risk and stay home.
5. Get your flu shot and COVID booster ASAP
COVID and flu vaccines offer the best protection against severe illness. “Get your COVID booster and flu shot before holiday events to ensure maximum immunity,” said Dr. Balogun. “Since it takes a week or two after vaccination for your immune response to develop, getting boosted or vaccinated as soon as possible offers greater protection.”
6. Take extra steps to protect vulnerable family members
If you plan on spending your holidays with newborns, older adults or loved ones who are immunocompromised, you may want to take extra precautions to ensure everyone stays safe and healthy. Some options for protecting our vulnerable friends and family include masking indoors, planning an outdoor celebration and social distancing.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.
The material set forth in this site in no way seeks to diagnose or treat illness or to serve as a substitute for professional medical care. Please speak with your health care provider if you have a health concern or if you are considering adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines. For permission to reprint any portion of this website or to be removed from a notification list, please contact us at (856) 537-6772