How to identify symptoms and protect yourself from fall illnesses

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It is fall, the time of year when the flu, cold, COVID and other illnesses are all circling around and staying healthy is so important.

These viruses often spread more when it gets colder. According to Dr. Jaren Trost, that is because people spend more time indoors and share virus respiratory droplets more easily.

How can you protect yourself? It all starts with prevention:

  • Wash your hands
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Stay up-to-date with vaccines (e.g., flu, COVID)

“You could be preventing a huge hospitalization, right? Or even death. The flu and COVID vaccines are very important preventative measures,” said Dr. Trost, of Optum New Mexico.

If you do get sick, it can be hard to understand what you have because symptoms are often so similar.

For example, common symptoms for both COVID and the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish
  • Having chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat

According to the CDC, compared to people with flu, people with COVID may take longer to show symptoms and may even be contagious for longer periods of time.

Doctors say, though, the best thing you can do is get tested if you’re feeling sick.

“Instead of getting in your mind about what this is or what that is, you don’t wanna delay any care. Just take a COVID test if you have an at-home COVID test or go to urgent care or a doctor’s office and will be able to test that stuff for you,” Dr. Trost said.

Remember, if you’re feeling any of the symptoms we discussed – stay home. That will help prevent the spread of these fall illnesses.