Navigating the ‘Tripledemic’: How to protect yourself from Covid, RSV, and Flu
Covid-19 has been dominating headlines and conversations for more than a year now. But it is not the only virus we are dealing with this winter; in fact, many healthcare professionals are referring to this as a “tripledemic” due to the simultaneous outbreaks of coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and influenza.
As we head into the fall and winter season, it’s important to stay vigilant about your health by taking steps to protect yourself from these three illnesses. Let’s take a closer look at what this means for all of us.
The triple threat
A ‘tripledemic’ occurs when three different contagious illnesses occur simultaneously—in this case, Covid-19, flu and RSV. The combination can be especially dangerous as it increases our chances of becoming seriously ill from any one of the viruses. They can cause mild to severe symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and difficulty breathing in some cases.
Because there is little overlap between the three infections – meaning they all have different causes and require different treatments – it is important to be aware of the symptoms and seek medical attention if they are present.
- Covid-19: Covid-19 has been the most talked about virus since it was identified in late 2019. It is caused by a novel coronavirus and can cause mild to severe symptoms, including fever, cough, fatigue, and trouble breathing. The best way to protect yourself from Covid-19 is to get vaccinated when they become available, wear a face mask when you are around others, practice social distancing when possible, and wash your hands frequently.
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus: RSV is a common virus that affects the respiratory system and can be especially dangerous for young children or those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms of RSV include coughing, wheezing, runny nose, sore throat, fever, headache, and body aches. To reduce your risk of getting RSV you should avoid close contact with people who have it or may have it; wash your hands often; disinfect surfaces regularly; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; and keep up with all vaccines recommended for children and adults.
- Influenza: The flu is an infection of the airways caused by the influenza virus. The flu virus can cause symptoms such as common cold, fever or feeling feverish, chills, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness), vomiting, and diarrhea (more common in children). Like RSV, it is highly contagious and can spread through contact with an infected person or surface. The flu usually has more severe symptoms than RSV but most healthy adults will recover in a few days without any medical intervention.
How to protect yourself from the ‘Tripledemic’
With three deadly viruses circulating within our communities at once, it can be difficult to keep up with changing guidelines about how best to protect ourselves and those around us. Here are some ways to reduce your risk during this ‘tripledemic’ so you can stay healthy and safe.
Wash your hands regularly
The single most effective way to stay healthy is to wash your hands properly and often. Make sure you are lathering up with soap for at least 20 seconds before rinsing off thoroughly. If you don’t have access to a sink or soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Handwashing is especially important after being in public places or touching any shared surfaces like doorknobs and shopping carts.
Stay home when you’re sick
Don’t engage in presenteeism. If you start feeling ill or showing symptoms of Covid-19, RSV, or Flu—such as fever, cough, body aches—it’s best to stay home and avoid contact with others. This helps prevent the virus from spreading to people who are more vulnerable such as healthcare workers or those with underlying medical conditions. Even if you only have mild symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throat, it’s best to quarantine yourself for 14 days until all your symptoms resolve completely.
Wear a mask
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage the public to wear high-quality, well-fitting masks to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. Whenever you need to go out in public, make sure you wear an appropriate face covering that covers both your nose and mouth area securely. Masks not only help protect yourself but also those around you from potential exposure to Covid-19 or other viruses this season.
It’s important to choose masks made from tightly woven fabric that fit snugly against the face without gaps so that air won’t flow through them easily when speaking or coughing/sneezing. Additionally, masks should be regularly washed after each use for optimal protection and hygiene purposes.
Getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do. Everyone over 6 months old should get their flu vaccine every year while adults over 65 years old should also consider getting vaccinated against RSV as well as Covid-19 when available in their area. Vaccines not only help protect individuals but also reduce overall transmission rates so it’s important that everyone gets vaccinated if possible!
Keep up with good health habits
Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly are key components in staying healthy during this triple threat season. Eating nutrient-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables will help boost your immune system while exercising for at least 30 minutes every day will help keep your body strong enough to fight off any viruses that may come its way. Additionally getting adequate sleep each night (7-8 hours) helps recharge our bodies so we can stay healthy all winter long.4
Minimize your risks against ‘Tripledemic’
Navigating the ‘Tripledemic’ can seem scary. It’s important now more than ever that we take precautions against all three viruses – Covid-19, RSV and the Flu. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if your symptoms don’t improve after a few days. By staying informed on these three major viral threats, we can make sure we stay safe while also helping keep our communities safe too. Stay safe everyone!