Tis the Season to be Thoughtful

December is a busy month for most due to the holidays with family gatherings, office parties, then end of the year festivities. However, some people may not stop and think how December is in the middle of cold and flu season. It is that time of year where we will feel obligated to go to gatherings, even if we are not feeling the best. This is not the year to be going out when you are under the weather.
Let’s be honest, it is best, no matter what time of the year, to stay home if we are not feeling well. Especially since COVID is here to stay. This cold and flu season, though, there is a high rate of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) along with the flu. This has caused a large increase of hospitalized children due to RSV, flu, and COVID (PA Department of Health, https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/HAN/2022-672-11-15-ADV-Resp%20Viruses.pdf).
How does one know what they have? Below are the symptoms of each, including the common head cold:

As you can see, all four have overlapping symptoms. It can be hard for the average person, let alone a doctor, to tell what it is without testing. In addition, infants 12 months and younger, the elderly, those with lung disease, and those with compromised immune systems are at high risk of complications from RSV, flu, and COVID. Some of those complications are difficulty breathing, bronchiolitis (swelling and mucus buildup in the smallest air passages in the lungs), and pneumonia (CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/about/symptoms.html). Those complications can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Currently, about 27.5 per 100,000 children 0 to 4 years of age are hospitalized with RSV. Of those 65 or older, 3.5 per 100,000 are hospitalized. While 3.5 may not seem high, for ages 18-49, the hospitalization rate is just 0.2 per 100,000. The rate for the elderly is 17.5 times higher than those who are 18-49 years of age, and for children it is 137.5 times higher (CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/research/rsv-net/dashboard.html).
When looking at the flu, for children zero to four years of age, about 13% of emergency room visits so far are for the flu. The second highest rate is children 5 to 18 years of age at a rate of about 10% of emergency room visits. While those 65 and older, 1.5% of emergency room visits are for the flu (https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Flu/Pages/2022-23-Flu.aspx). Lastly, new COVID cases in the nation have increased by 56% in the past two weeks. (New York Times, December 13, 2022).
What does all this mean for this holiday season? Be thoughtful of others. Test before visiting. If you are sick or feeling a little under the weather, stay home. Wear a high-quality mask if you are sick and need to be around others, wash your hands often, and, whether or not you are sick, do not kiss infants. Any parent will tell you, even a simple head cold is miserable for an infant, as they cannot communicate yet, aside from crying.
What we have to realize is that we can and should take time to take care of ourselves. It isn’t selfish or rude to stay home from a gathering because you are not feeling well. You are just being thoughtful and kind to those you would have been around. It is actually selfish and rude to show up and spread illness, even if you think it is just the common cold. You don’t always know what is going on in someone’s life. Maybe the co-worker you just hugged got a cancer diagnosis recently, or your grandmother is getting sick more easily but hasn’t said anything in order to not worry everyone.
So be kind and thoughtful this holiday season. Stay home if you don’t feel well. Your friends, family, and co-workers will understand and will be grateful

.Jessica Watters has a B.S. degree in Community Health Education
Published: 12/17/22

Return to Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *