We’re in the midst of a perfect storm. We have the typical cold and flu season, plus a surge in RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases and the ongoing threat of COVID-19. And with children being back in school there’s a greater chance that they could be exposed to any of these illnesses, says Dr. David Cutler, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Luckily, there are things you can do to lower the risk of getting sick. “Many of the practices that are being used for the control of COVID-19 are also applicable to the prevention of seasonal respiratory viruses, such as RSV, endemic coronaviruses, rhinovirus and influenza,” Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life.
It starts with getting vaccinated against both COVID-19 and the flu (the only two illnesses circulating that there are vaccines for). There is, of course, also the need for good hand hygiene. But it’s still possible for a member of your household to get sick anyway. So it’s always a good idea to stay stocked up on what you need to keep your house as clean as possible and keep tabs on your family’s health. That way, you’re doing everything you can at home to help keep illness at bay — now and in the coming months.
Here, according to health experts, are a few smart, affordable things to keep around your house as we contend with RSV, cold, flu and COVID-19 season.
“If one wears a mask, it decreases the transmission of COVID-19, RSV and influenza,” Dr. Rajeev Fernando, an infectious disease expert in Southampton, New York, tells Yahoo Life, while Dr. Cutler reminds us that it’s a good idea to have masks handy in your home to protect other family members in the event that one of you gets sick.
“Monitoring and recording temperature progression using a working thermometer is important data to provide to healthcare professionals when needing to discuss the ongoing illness,” says Weatherhead.
This option uses three different sensors to deliver reliable results. Just hold it a few centimeters away from the forehead, push the button and get a quick reading. A nice bonus: It vibrates when it’s ready, instead of beeping, so you don’t have to worry about waking a happy slumberer.
“Always keep cleaning products on hand in the home,” says Margaret Quinn, a clinical associate professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing. An obvious recommendation, perhaps, but so, so true.
“It’s important to note this up front: A pulse oximeter won’t diagnose COVID-19 or the flu, but it can indicate that someone doesn’t have enough oxygen in their blood,” Fernando says. And, if you don't have enough oxygen in your blood, you may need to seek care to get supplemental oxygen. Basically, keeping tabs on your blood oxygen levels is a good thing when you have a respiratory virus.
"Hand sanitizer can help kill germs that can make you sick and is especially useful when soap and water aren't available," Fernando says.
“Having extra hand soap is always important, as everyone should be washing their hands more frequently throughout the day,” Quinn says.
Quinn says now is a good time to check the expiration date of the medications you have at home. “Acetaminophen — aka Tylenol — for adults and children is always good to have on hand,” she says. These rapid-release gels help deliver pain- and fever-fighting medication quickly.
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The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.