Commonwealth Health Provides Information on Upper Respiratory Illness

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Commonwealth Health: If it seems like more people are getting sick each day – it’s not your imagination. Diagnoses of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are on the rise across the U.S with the CDC trackers showing  flu activity to be minimal here in Pennsylvania but more people visiting the emergency department or needing hospitalizations for treatment of severe symptoms.

If you are one of those who has gotten ill, the symptoms for each condition are similar and it’s important to know when they signal a medical emergency. All can cause mild to severe illness and sometimes lead to complications such as pneumonia or sepsis which can be life-threatening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency warning signs of flu and COVID-19 include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen and confusion. Additional dangerous flu symptoms include persistent dizziness, inability to arouse, seizures, not urinating, severe muscle pain, severe weakness or unsteadiness, fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen and worsening of chronic medical conditions. If you or someone you know have any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately.

To protect yourself and others, there’s still time to get vaccinated for flu, COVID-19 and RSV, and it is safe to get them at the same time. Other steps to reduce the spread of respiratory diseases during this busy season are:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick with respiratory symptoms, except to get medical care.

“The holidays can bring us together in more social settings than the rest of the year, making them a perfect breeding ground for illness,” said Nicholas Ahn, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Commonwealth Health Physician Network. “Vaccination is always a key way to lessen your chance of illness, but common sense also remains important. Stay home if you are not feeling well as illness is the gift no one wants.”

Those at the highest risk of serious illness from flu or COVID include babies and toddlers, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

People ages 60 years and older should talk to their healthcare provider about whether RSV vaccination is right for them as well. Older adults, adults with chronic heart or lung disease, with weakened immune systems or living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are at the highest risk for RSV illness.

Dr. Ahn continues, “your physician can test to determine whether the flu, COVID-19 or RSV virus is causing your illness and what treatment will be beneficial. Seek medical care immediately if you are experiencing extreme symptoms such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or confusion.”