Navigating Winter 2023-2024: Recommendations for Respiratory Infections including COVID-19, RSV, Influenza and the Common Cold
Author: Dareen Siri MD FAAAAI FACAAI
Dear Midwest Allergy, Sinus, & Respiratory Patients and Friends,
As the winter season approaches, the Midwest Allergy Sinus & Respiratory Clinic is dedicated to providing the latest information and recommendations for our patients in the face of ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and other respiratory germs. Staying informed and following the most up-to-date guidelines is crucial for safeguarding your health and that of your loved ones. Our communities in and around Bloomington-Normal, Springfield, Greater Peoria, Lincoln, Jacksonville, Carlinville and Taylorville are seeing similar patterns of infection, with a spike in COVID-19 cases, followed by RSV & Rhinovirus (a common germ that causes common cold symptoms), and then influenza. Influenza, or “the flu,” has not yet gained that much ground yet this winter, but its time will come!
The COVID-19 landscape continues to evolve, and it’s essential to stay informed about the latest developments. As of Winter 2023, booster shots are recommended for eligible individuals to enhance immunity and provide increased protection against severe illness. Patients are encouraged to check their eligibility and schedule booster appointments promptly.
The most up-to-date information is available at cdc.gov. Generally speaking, it is recommended that:
“Everyone aged 5 years and older should get 1 dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against serious illness from COVID-19. None of the updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines is preferred over another.”
Regarding the 2023–2024 Updated COVID-19 Vaccines:
- As of October 3, 2023, the 2023-2024 updated Novavax vaccine was recommended by CDC for use in the United States.
- As of September 12, 2023, the 2023–2024 updated Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were recommended by CDC for use in the United States.
- The 2023–2024 updated COVID-19 vaccines more closely targets the XBB lineage of the Omicron variant and could restore protection against severe COVID-19 that may have decreased over time. We anticipate the updated vaccines will be better at fighting currently circulating variants.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that can cause mild cold-like symptoms in adults but can be severe, especially in young children, older adults, and immunocompromised persons. This winter, heightened awareness is advised due to the potential for increased RSV activity. Parents and caregivers should be especially cautious and seek medical attention promptly if symptoms of RSV, such as difficulty breathing and persistent cough, arise in young children. Please review MASA’s separate article about RSV Vaccinations: Understanding the New RSV Vaccine for Adults and Pregnant Women 2023
Influenza (flu) remains a significant concern during the winter months. Annual flu vaccination is strongly recommended for everyone aged six months and older. It’s not too late to get vaccinated, and doing so can significantly reduce the risk of severe illness and complications. Flu symptoms often overlap with those of COVID-19, making it essential to consult with us if you experience respiratory symptoms, fever, or body aches.
Combating Respiratory Challenges:
For individuals with allergies, sinus issues, or pre-existing respiratory conditions, managing symptoms becomes even more crucial during the winter. Ensure that your medications, such as nasal sprays, nebulizers, and inhalers, are up to date. Make sure to request these medicines well before Holiday Closures (at MASA, but also at your labs, priority care clinics, pharmacies, mail, and hospitals). Stay indoors on days with poor air quality, and consider using air purifiers to reduce allergens and irritants at home. Regularly clean and replace air filters to maintain a healthy indoor environment. Inspect areas of your home that may have water intrusion, such as from rain and snow or a build of humidity, on a regular basis.
Telehealth, Portal Communications, and Drive-Up Testing Options:
As a proactive measure, our clinic encourages the use of telehealth services when appropriate. Virtual consultations can be a convenient and effective way to address non-emergency medical concerns, especially for individuals who may be at higher risk or prefer to limit in-person interactions.
You may also request a Drive-Up point-of-care test for COVID-19, Influenza, and Rapid Streptococcal (Strep Throat) testing, and get results in 15 minutes. Our providers can perform a quick evaluation by telephone while you wait in your car and get you treated based on the testing information.
We strongly encourage your to reach out through the Care Management team portals or through your patient portals with quick questions. We try to address them promptly and get you a prompt in person visit if you need one.
Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season:
Please read our article on Self-Care for the 2023-2024 Cold and Flu Season.
As we enter Winter 2023, the Midwest Allergy Sinus & Respiratory Clinic remains committed to your well-being. By staying informed, following recommended guidelines, and maintaining open communication with our staff and providers, we can collectively navigate the challenges posed by the winter germs. Together, we can create a healthier and safer winter season for all.