LA CROSSE, Wis. ― Upper respiratory infections are a common occurrence this time of year. Seasonal cases of influenza, strep throat and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have increased over the past few weeks. At the same time, COVID-19 remains active in the community.
"These respiratory viruses can cause cold-like symptoms as well as fever, cough and difficulty breathing," says Joseph Behn, M.D., family physician, Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska. "While differences exist between all viruses, the recommendations for care are the same — rest, stay hydrated, take over-the-counter medications to manage your symptoms and get your vaccinations updated."
"Most people with upper respiratory infections will have a mild illness that can be managed at home. For those who are at high risk for complications from influenza or other viruses, those patients should be in contact with their health care team on how best to treat their cases," adds Dr. Behn. "For those at high risk of flu-related complications or who have severe flu, there's a greater chance that the flu might lead to pneumonia and other conditions."
Mayo Clinic Health System offers these resources to help patients manage upper respiratory infections:
- Check Symptoms tool through Patient Online Services
Mayo Clinic offers a Check Symptoms feature in Patient Online Services. After completing an online assessment, patients will receive recommendations for next steps. This could be suggestions for home care or the opportunity to complete an Express Care Online assessment or schedule an appointment with a care provider.
- Online symptom checker
Mayo Clinic offers an online symptom checker to help families review their symptoms and potential treatment options.
- Nurse triage line
Mayo Clinic offers around-the-clock advice from a team of expert and caring registered nurses. The team uses the medical information backed by the expertise of Mayo Clinic to help answer patients' questions.
- COVID-19 testing
Mayo Clinic recommends the use of home antigen testing for COVID-19 if needed. Patients are encouraged to test at home when symptomatic and to seek additional care or testing if they remain symptomatic yet test negative for COVID-19.
An increased risk of flu-related complications include those who are:
- Younger than age 1
- Ages 65 and older
- Pregnant or have given birth in the past two weeks
- Under age 19 and are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- Have certain chronic medical conditions, including lung diseases such as asthma; an airway abnormality; heart disease' diabetes; neurological or neurodevelopmental disease; metabolic disorders; and kidney, liver or blood diseases
- Have a weakened immune system due to factors such as long-term use of steroids or other immunosuppressants, HIV, organ transplant, blood cancer or cancer being treated with chemotherapy
- Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater
- Live in a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home
The flu also can worsen chronic health problems, such as asthma and congestive heart failure.
"As we enter this season and the upcoming holidays, it's going to be natural to have cold sniffles, flu and COVID-19 infections. It's just more likely to occur," says John O'Horo, M.D., infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. "It's impossible to distinguish based on symptoms from a regular cold to RSV to COVID-19 or flu — especially if you have a mild case. But you can still transmit all of these to others."
"When you're sick, you feel tired and frail, achy and clammy. You're not exactly in the best position to fight off other germs and viruses that you might encounter should you decide to leave the house," offers Dr. Behn. "If you don't pay attention to these signs and choose to continue with your daily activities, you won't be efficient, productive or able to function at full capacity. Stay home. Pay attention to your body. If you don't, you might be ignoring indicators that could lead into more serious health issues."
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Press ContactRick Thiesse