Doctor shares tips to keep this holiday safe from respiratory diseases

Right after the holidays is when San Diego County has seen its largest spikes in COVID-19 and historically the flu.

There are steps people can take to reduce their risk, especially if parties are being planned.

“Really be cautious and understand that we only have so many hospital beds and if you get vaccinated — you’re doing it for yourself and also others,” said Dr. Jyotu Sandhu, family physician with Sharp Rees-Stealy.

According to the latest data, reported COVID-19 cases have slightly fallen since the previous week. Thursday San Diego County officials reported 4,764 cases down from the previous week’s 4,893 — but those are just lab-confirmed tests, and the numbers do not include all of the at-home testing.

Sandhu said people who are sick this holiday season should not travel.

“It just takes one cough or spreads some secretions onto a handlebar or something like that where you now risked transmitting that to someone else who might have a worse outcome than you,” he said.

Thousands of San Diegans will be flying home to be with family or friends. Last holiday season, the CDC’s mask mandate was still in place for airports, but that is gone this year. Masking up can really help, but Sandhu said people would need to get a well-fitted one.

“If you truly want to be careful and not only protect others but yourself, then the only thing that works is an N95 proper-fitting mask,” Sandhu said.

Sandhu also said people who are not feeling well should consider skipping holiday parties this year, even if they have mild symptoms, as families and friends may be at higher risk for bad outcomes.

About 20 Californians are dying per day from COVID-19, according to the latest data from the California Department of Public Health.

This year, the flu has been particularly bad. Locally, cases are slowly dropping, with 1,141 reported Thursday, compared with 1,609 the previous week. Again, those are lab-confirmed cases.

“Flu is really a problem right now,” Sandhu said. “In fact I have multiple patients who have had influenza who never got a flu shot and now they’re regretting it, saying it was worse than their COVID-19 experience.”

Vaccinations for both the flu and COVID-19 are designed to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. Another big tip is to take parties outside. That is not able to happen in most parts of the country during winter, but in San Diego the Christmas forecast is above 70 degrees.

“That’s the best-case scenario,” Sandhu said. “Where you can social distance and you have the wind blowing, which takes away a lot of the diseases.”

Sandhu said people who do end up getting exposed at parties should watch for symptoms for about a week and get tested if any do appear.

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