The good news is that if you’re already taking precautions for COVID, you’re doing better at keeping away winter illnesses than many others, including some residents of Mount Vernon and elsewhere.
Of course, the less good news is that there are still some additional behaviors and practices you can be doing to keep yourself safe, along with any loved ones receiving traditional care or palliative care.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are good at encouraging people to take steps to make themselves safe for any sort of contagious disease, whether it’s a cold, the flu, COVID, or other types of infections or viruses.
We also follow our own safety protocols for home health care and hospice staff, since we want to keep ourselves safe as well as do our best to not spread infections to our clients. This includes being careful with bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis.
All of these precautions are always a good strategy but especially important during the COVID pandemic. Unlike some professions that allow employees to work from home, our staff needs to visit our clients in person. Plus, many of our clients have poor immune systems due to health conditions, so we want to do everything we can to keep them as healthy as possible.
Yes, it’s true, many are receiving hospice care and are in the last stages of their life, so does getting sick matter? It sure does – part of hospice care is helping provide them with quality of life, whether it’s pain management, helping to complete their final arrangements, or squeezing in time with loved ones.
So, catching a cold, flu, or other sickness could definitely affect their quality of life, especially if their immune systems are already weakened. It could mean the symptoms hit harder, hang on longer, or have a greater chance of turning into something more serious such as pneumonia or a need for hospitalization. It could mean time spent in bed when they’re trying to make each moment count. It could also mean that they’ll need to encourage friends or family to stay away so they don’t get sick too.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have come up with a variety of recommendations to lower people’s risk of getting sick this winter, especially with the flu.
These guidelines start with getting a seasonal flu shot if you haven’t already. It’s especially encouraged for people aged 65 and over, along with people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and asthma.
The flu shot is also recommended for health care staff to make sure they don’t catch something and infect others, even if they have minor symptoms.
Antiviral medicine is also recommended if you have the flu. These aren’t antibiotics but do need to be prescribed. These can reduce symptoms and the length of the flu as well as possibly cut down on any complications. They should be started within two days of being sick for optimal effect.
Different types of flu can have different symptoms but generally can include aches, chills, fatigue, fever, and cough. A variety of intestinal problems is also possible. A cold virus may have similar symptoms too. COVID also may have similar symptoms such as aches, loss of taste or smell, and breathing problems.
Good hygiene is stressed for all of these conditions. It means washing your hands regularly for at least 30 seconds, especially after you touch a possible infected surface. If you can’t reach soap and hot water, use antibacterial hand sanitizer.
Health care staff often may use gloves. This reduces the chance of something getting onto their skin or for them contaminating anyone.
Gloves were a good practice before COVID came along, so many health care workers didn’t have to learn anything new in this regard when it became a COVID protocol.
Antibacterial wipes are also another good idea for quick clean-ups of areas that could be infected. It doesn’t have to be counters or tables either: Germs can live on things like doorknobs (front and back), handles, light switches, and other hard surfaces.
Masks can also help with one’s defense. Regardless of political opinions, especially the topics of mask mandates and vaccines, most medical experts do agree that masks can significantly reduce the risk of receiving COVID.
It can also reduce the spread of other infections, in the form of the wearer not being able to spread droplets far, or for others near them breathing them in.
A mask works the same for COVID as it does for other viruses, so it can be encouraged to wear one when other people are around, especially if there is a concern.
COVID vaccines are also encouraged for those with high medical risks.
In the last few years, the intersection of COVID and other seasonal infections has created new challenges and situations for many of us. But luckily, many of the practices already in use can go a long way in helping people stay secure.
For instance, the CDC wants to be a resource for all of these conditions. One way is by encouraging vaccinations for COVID as well as flu. One recent event was National Influenza Vaccination Week which ran Dec. 5-11.