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Should People Mask Up Every Fall And Winter Between Flu, Covid, And RSV?

It is yet another season that brings a drop in temperature and a rise in viral infections. Considering that we are currently dealing with what medical professionals refer to as a tripledemic – the confluence of COVID, influenza, and RSV – you might be wondering how you can avoid this viral illness. But beyond this new illness, considering how COVID seems here to stay, and there is a flu breakout every fall and winter, should you adhere to seasonal masking? Here are a few things doctors advise you to think about.

Harmful Outbreaks Of Respiratory Viruses

As a result of the COVID pandemic in 2020 and the tight precautions put in place to block its spread, medical professionals claim that all other respiratory viruses vanished abruptly and almost entirely.

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According to Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious diseases specialist and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, to Yahoo life,  “we had cut off the regular means for respiratory viruses to propagate.” She further said that “Naturally, they were still there. We didn’t annihilate them. They are gradually returning, and they are returning with a vengeance.” According to Dr. Anna Sick-Samuels, assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the pandemic’s disruption has caused a change in these viruses’ seasonal cycles. She further said, “what differs in the current year is the timing. The timing of the viruses overlaps the early waves of influenza and RSV.” “In previous years, we would frequently witness them more successively. So, the effect was more evenly distributed.” Doron speaks about how even though the viruses appear earlier than usual, the current numbers are not significantly different from those from previous years. She adds, “We definitely aren’t recording more flu than the usual number, even at its peak.” However, if there are this many cases of RSV and flu in November, it may turn out to be the worst season ever. All these occur as people prepare to spend more time indoors, whether at packed airports, busy retail malls, sizable holiday gatherings, or both. Making people wonder if it’s time to review the country-wide relaxations of pandemic safeguards, such as masking. Considering the recent upsurge in respiratory viruses, Doron says she opposes health authorities abating the restrictions and mandates, whether or not the masks are mandated, because she believes that these reactive respiratory virus surges are one of those policies’ most dangerous unintended consequences.

Should You Cover Up With A Mask In The Wintertime?

If you are curious if preserving your health entails using a mask whenever it becomes cold outside or when respiratory illnesses are prevalent, the answer is No, not always. “It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing” choice, says Dr. Vandana Madhavan, director of advanced pediatrics at Mass General Brigham in Boston, to Yahoo Life. “I’ve spoken many times during the pandemic about public health actions being like a dimmer switch, not the typical on or off switch,” she claims. However, the dialing up or down need not be done at the entire community level. According to Madhavan, it depends on what suits you and your family the best, your age, health condition, and status. Some would lament how they wanted to visit their grandparents over the holidays or celebrate it with a long-lost friend. All Madhavan proposes is that for a few weeks, let’s all wear masks and truly pay attention to the things we do. Masks don’t have to be all or nothing to be effective, yet they still are.

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However, not all respiratory viruses spread similarly, according to Doron. As effective as a well-fitting, the high-quality mask protects you, but it is less protective against viruses that depend more on touch for transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV can spread not only through coughing or sneezing but also by contacting a surface with the virus and touching your face. Doron argues that in this situation, improving hand cleanliness and avoiding contact with sick people may be as, if not more, helpful than donning a mask. Healthy lifestyle practices, in general, can be beneficial. “There are many fundamental things that still apply here,” says Doron. “Which are the  same things; we probably weren’t attentive enough during the pandemic.” She continues by emphasizing how your previous medical condition is really important and how maintaining a healthy weight through diet, exercise, sleep, and other habits can bring down stress since it can cause severe health conditions.

When To Exercise Greater Caution

However, health specialists concur that you should use every tool in your toolbox to prevent coming into contact with viruses this season if you fall into a high-risk category. People who fall in this category are those who are immunocompromised or are close to someone who is the elderly suffering from heart or lung illness, cancer patients undergoing treatment, and infants less than six months. Madhavan advises parents of very young children to speak out for their children’s health because they cannot wear masks. Parents should be empowered to inquire about more than just “Oh, is anyone ill? However, “Have you recently been around somebody sick?” Since the individual exposed to the illness may only have a minor case, they risk passing it on to a younger child or an older person who is more susceptible.

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In order to assess your personal risk and establish what safeguards could be most effective for you, Doron advises speaking with your doctor if you still have worries. “The fact that more people are aware is a modest COVID-19 silver lining. Like, ‘Oh, let’s consider ventilation, transmission hazards, etc.,'” says Doron. Madhavan concurs, pointing out that these principles apply to other respiratory viruses. She believes everyone knows they are in the same boat at this time. We are all attempting to maintain our own and our families’ health.

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