As you gear up for the holiday season filled with shopping, travel plans, and parties, it's crucial to add one more item to your checklist: staying informed and safe amid the ongoing respiratory disease season. COVID-19, the flu, and RSV are all on the rise as we enter late fall and winter. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself and your loved ones.
COVID-19, Flu, and RSV: Tips to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season
- For the first time, you can get vaccines for all three most common seasonal viruses: RSV, COVID-19, and the flu.
- Holiday gatherings held inside, with a lot of people, can be hotbeds for spreading viruses.
- Proactive, healthy habits can help keep you and your loved ones safer this holiday season.
Will there be a surge?
Late fall and winter typically mark the peak season for COVID-19, the flu, and RSV. According to surveillance data, all three are already on the rise in the U.S. Experts anticipate continued increases in infections as temperatures drop. It's a season when respiratory viruses thrive.
Do I need to get vaccinated?
Vaccination is one of the most critical steps to safeguard yourself and your loved ones during the holiday season. Vaccines not only prevent severe disease but can also be lifesaving. Here's what you need to know:
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine and an updated COVID-19 vaccination this fall. If you haven't received a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in the last six months, consider getting the updated booster shot authorized in September. Your immunity may not provide sufficient protection against current strains. Approximately 50% of recent cases in the U.S. are linked to the Omicron subvariants HV.1 and EG.5, the targets of the latest booster shot.
RSV vaccination: An RSV immunization may be recommended for certain high-risk groups, including adults aged 60 and older. Parents should consider RSV vaccination during weeks 32-36 of pregnancy or provide infants with an RSV preventive antibody. Consult your healthcare provider for guidance on RSV vaccination.
Combined vaccination: You may be able to receive the flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccines during the same visit. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for personalized advice. Research suggests that simultaneous vaccination shots will maintain their effectiveness.
Remember that getting vaccinated takes time. It usually takes about two weeks for your body to develop a complete immune response after vaccination.
Do I still need to isolate and mask if I test positive for COVID?
If you test positive for COVID-19, isolate for at least five days, as recommended by the CDC. Even after this period, continue wearing a high-quality mask like N95 or KN95 through the 10th day after testing positive, especially around others indoors.
For holiday plans, if you're in the initial five-day isolation period, it's best to postpone gatherings until you're better. If you've completed the isolation but are still within the 10-day masking period, consider the risk to high-risk individuals. It may be safer to stay home or maintain masking.
If you test negative on two at-home tests taken 48 hours apart, you can remove your mask before the entire ten days.
If you spend time with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, you don't have to isolate unless you develop symptoms or test positive. But you should wear a mask around others indoors, monitor yourself for signs, and consider testing. Research shows that after exposure to Omicron, illness can develop quickly, so vigilance is key.
Holiday gathering safety tips
Adopting healthy habits can help protect against the season’s nasty respiratory viruses. Here are some practical tips to keep you and your loved ones healthy for all the holiday parties and fun.
Stay home when sick:
- If you're unwell, stay home to prevent the risk of infecting others.
- Isolate yourself within your household to reduce the chance of transmission.
- If symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider.
Practice respiratory etiquette: Cover your coughs and sneezes to protect those around you.
Avoid close contact: Stay away from individuals who are sick, if possible, as respiratory viruses can spread more easily in close proximity.
Practice proper hand hygiene: Frequent handwashing with soap and water effectively removes germs. When soap is unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Mask up: High-quality masks can reduce viral transmission, especially when traveling or in crowded indoor spaces. Masking is particularly important if you are at higher risk of severe illness.
Improve air quality: Indoors, where viruses are more easily transmitted, take steps to enhance air quality, such as opening windows or using air purifiers.
This holiday season, prioritize safety and health to ensure joyful celebrations with your loved ones. Stay informed, follow guidelines, and adapt your plans as needed to protect yourself and others.