Surviving Flu, Cold and Covid Season

It happens every winter. Cases of the flu, colds, and Covid are everywhere and many people feel like everyone they know is sick with something. While this time of year is traditionally the height of cold and flu season, the arrival of Covid and other less well-known microbes are causing an increase in serious cases – not only among the elderly or infirm but also among younger, healthy people. Dr. Michael Farzam and our House Call Doctor Los Angeles team see this change every day.

These illnesses range from mild viruses that may make it hard to concentrate for a few days to severe attacks that can put us out of commission for weeks or, with long Covid, linger for years. We’ve all experienced the countless annoying variations in between that typically last a week and make us feel miserable for a short time. 

Many people take these primarily respiratory ailments as an unavoidable fact of life, but that’s only partly true. No form of prevention constitutes a 100 percent guarantee, but all of us can do a lot to limit their severity or prevent them altogether.

Prevention: Vaccines and Immunization

You can probably guess what we’re going to say but, whatever you may have heard, it’s true. The most important step to take is taking advantage of vaccines and immunizations. Whatever you may have heard, these are by far the most helpful steps you can take to prevent a nasty illness. 

Quite a few people are confused by the fact that none of these vaccines are 100 percent effective. But being sick is not like turning on a light switch. It’s more like a dimmer. Covid vaccines have saved countless lives by making what might have been extremely severe cases requiring hospitalization or even a ventilator into illnesses the body can cope with on its own. Flu shots similarly make for milder, shorter cases of the flu. 

Yes, vaccines sometimes have side effects, but they are nearly always mild. Many people can immediately resume their routines after a flu shot; the worst most people can expect are flu-like symptoms for a day or two as the body builds its defenses against a virus. 

Other Prevention Measures

This should be familiar by now, but try to keep six feet between you and strangers or acquaintances who may be sick; remember social distancing? It’s all about blocking the transmission of the tiny droplets that spread illnesses. We know some people hate them for assorted reasons, but if you want or need to avoid an illness there’s no substitute for wearing a mask in public areas, especially in crowds or on public transportation. And, of course, medical-grade masks like an N95 are more effective. While even the best masks are not 1000 percent foolproof, they significantly reduce your chances of getting an illness as well as your chances of spreading one, which is just as important.

Next, be aware that the risk of infection rises in unventilated areas. Try to keep your home and, if possible, your office well-ventilated. Air purifiers might also help to improve the odds of getting through the season unscathed.

Finally, as always, bolster your immune system with healthy habits – nutritious food, plenty of exercise, and sufficient sleep. Sleep tends to be a low priority but most of us have probably experienced coming down with something after a day or two of sleep deprivation. Sleep is crucial for good health in the short and long term.

The flip side of not engaging in good health habits is indulging in bad ones. The most popular vices all lower our immunity to illnesses. Stop smoking, use booze and/or cannabis moderately or not at all, eat more veggies and whole grains, less junk food, and work more exercise into your routine. This may not be exciting advice but “weird tricks” are over-priced placebos at best. These not-so-weird steps work.

“But I’m Already Sick!” Shortening Covid and the Flu

If you don’t have a time machine, vaccines can’t help an illness once you’ve contracted it. Thanks to drugs like Paxlovid for Covid and Tamiflu, however, we now have a good chance of reducing the length and severity of an illness if we act quickly. Try to quickly identify that you have an illness and then contact a doctor before the treatment window closes.

Tamiflu works if taken within roughly two days after the start of symptoms. With Paxlovid, patients must take the drug within five days after testing positive or coming down with Covid symptoms. Taken as directed, the drug significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death. 

When to Call a Doctor?

If you test positive for Covid, contact your doctor as soon as possible, even if symptoms are mild or nonexistent. This is when it is time to mention Paxlovid and see if your doctor considers it a good idea in your case. 

With ordinary cold and flu viruses, it’s typically unnecessary to contact a medical provider. Symptoms such as a fever/elevated temperature, sniffles, sneezes, throat soreness, coughing, or mild nausea with the flu are typical and should go away within a week. 

Sometimes ordinary symptoms will persist, however, and if you’re still coughing or experiencing other symptoms after a couple of weeks, it’s time to get in touch with medical professionals. You may be suffering from such illnesses as whooping cough, pneumonia, or other more serious problems. 

There are situations where you should seek medical help immediately regardless of your condition. If a fever is close to 103 or more, you are unable to keep food down, or have difficulty swallowing – beyond just a normal sore throat – seek immediate medical care. In most cases, this will mean going to an emergency room or possibly an urgent care in milder cases. If you believe the matter may be life-threatening, call 911 right away.

Which Doctor Should I Call?

Getting sick can be extra stressful if you’re away from home, don’t have a regular doctor, or during a weekend or holiday when most doctors’ offices are closed. Urgent care centers are usually dependable but getting into a car and then waiting for one or two hours in a room full of other sick people is less than ideal. This is why house call medicine is a burgeoning option in many parts of the country.

Dr. Michael Farzam and House Call Doctor Los Angeles have been providing Los Angeles-area residents with outstanding care for more than a decade. House calls provide increased safety and allow you to relax at your home, office, or hotel while you wait for the doctor to arrive. The last thing you need when you’re not feeling well is additional stress. For people who want this service all the time, we also offer concierge plans. 

If you are experiencing a non-emergency medical issue such as persistent symptoms, a chronic issue, or a minor injury, feel free to contact leading board-certified internist Dr. Michael Farzam and House Call Doctor Los Angeles by calling the phone number on your screen or by email through our contact page

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