As we enter the fall / winter season of 2022, we’re sharing 5 tips for navigating the cold-flu-covid season. Being prepared is your best defense, so this article will arm you with information on how to prevent illness, recognize symptoms early, understand the testing options and what to do if you test positive.
Tip #1 Prevent illness by getting vaccinated
The bivalent Covid-19 vaccine booster is now widely available in pharmacies and approved for use in people ages 5 and up (as of 10/22/22). If it has been more than 2 months since your last Covid vaccine, you would be eligible for the bivalent booster, which has protection against the Omicron BA. 4 and 5 strains. Our office has the booster available for ages 6 years and up, in addition to the primary series for kids under age 6. Please call our office if you would like to schedule.
If you have recently had Covid, you may have natural immunity for about 30 days, but research is showing that people may get reinfected with another strain after that. Therefore, consider timing your booster shot between 30-90 days after your last Covid infection started.
Flu shots are also widely available and recommended, given we are predicting a more severe flu season this year. It is completely safe to get your flu and Covid-19 vaccine on the same day. Be aware that it takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to take full effect and it is normal to have minor side effects such as fatigue, swollen glands, sore arm, headache, and chills.
We currently carry flu shots for children ages 6 months – 18 years old. If you are interested in having your child vaccinated, please call our office to schedule.
Tip #2 Know the Symptoms of Early Disease
Flu, Covid-19, RSV, Strep, allergies, and the common cold can all have similar presentations and it is important to recognize the symptoms early so proper treatment and prevention of spread can be put in place.
The current Covid Omicron variants have been very active lately, and frequently presenting with symptoms such as sore throat, headache, runny nose/ congestion, and fatigue. Some people have such mild symptoms that they mistake them for seasonal allergies or a minor cold.
The best tip for navigating this season is to be aware, alert, and if you develop symptoms (even minor ones), get yourself tested, wear a mask around others, and contact your doctor.
Tip #3 Understanding the Testing Options / Limitations
Most people are currently using over-the-counter rapid antigen covid tests as their first line of testing.
- Important Tip! If the test is positive, that is a reliable result and no further confirmation is recommended. If it is negative, re-testing should be considered in 24 hours and/or PCR testing can be done.
- The rapid antigen tests have a high false negative rate and it may take several days and higher viral counts before they turn positive.
PCR (or molecular) testing is considered the gold standard and is much more accurate. This can be very helpful to have done if you are symptomatic and the rapid antigen test is negative, or if you need more reliable results for work, home, or isolation planning. It will often pick up viral shedding before a person is even symptomatic. It can be done along with flu testing to distinguish the two illnesses (and yes, you can have Covid-19 and flu at the same time!)
Tip #4 Where to get Local PCR Testing
- For rapid PCR covid, flu and strep testing (20 minute turnaround time), you can schedule with Holden Urgent Care. The cost of the test is charged to your insurance company.
- Schedule a flu and Covid PCR test at your nearest Quest Diagnostics service center or CVS drive-through with a 24-48 hour turnaround time. The cost of the test is charged to your insurance company.
- Schedule a parking-lot Covid test in our office. Results will take approximately 48 hours. The cost of the test is charged to your insurance company.
Please note: at this time, our office will not be getting the rapid PCR test due to high cost, but will inform you if this changes.
Tip #5 If You Test Positive for Covid or the Flu:
If you test positive for Covid-19:
- wear a mask and isolate for 5 days (first day of symptoms or + test considered Day Zero). If after 5 days you are asymptomatic, you may end isolation and continue wearing a mask for 5 more days.
- If you are moderately – severely immunocompromised OR had moderate symptoms during the course of your illness, you should isolate and wear a mask through day 10.
- If you have mild – moderate symptoms, AND have risk factors of severe disease or you are older than 50, you may qualify for treatment. Contact your doctor’s office for more information.
- There are more details and guidance found in this link by the CDC
If you test positive for the Flu:
- wear a mask and stay home until fever free for > 24 hours and feeling better.
- if you have medical conditions that put you at high risk (such as diabetes, asthma or immunocompromised) you should contact your doctor to see if you qualify for treatment with Tamiflu.
Bonus Tip: When to End Isolation / When to Stop Testing
The CDC has put out updated guidelines on when to end isolation and when you can remove your mask based on the severity of your symptoms and the state of your immune system.
You can find all the details here. (updated 8/11/2022)
If you are a healthcare worker, there are slightly different CDC guidelines (updated 9/23/22) on when to return to work and if re-testing is needed.