Respiratory viruses are common and may include symptoms like runny nose, cough, sore throat, sneezing, headaches, body aches, rashes, and upset stomach. Some respiratory viruses cause more minor illness while others tend to cause more severe disease, which is why it is important to get tested when you are sick. Some respiratory viruses have a vaccines and antiviral treatments (like COVID and Flu) while others do not (like RSV and the viruses that cause the common cold). Remember, antibiotics do not work against respiratory viruses, they only work against diseases caused by bacteria. Symptom management strategies can be helpful for respiratory viruses, such as over-the-counter nasal sprays, cough or throat drops, decongestants, and pain and fever medications. It is also important to stay hydrated. For younger children and older adults as well as people with certain health conditions, respiratory viruses can cause more severe disease and may require additional medical care. For more information about specific respiratory viruses (Flu, RSV, COVID, Other Respiratory Viruses), see the information below:
The 2022-2023 flu season is underway in Riverside County. Flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness. A bad case of the flu can result in hospitalization or even death. Older adults and those with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
RUHS recommends the following ways to prevent illness:
- Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every flu season.
- Wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
- Stay home if you have any flu symptoms.
- If you have flu symptoms, get tested both for flu and for COVID because they share similar symptoms
- Avoid close proximity with people until you are well.
Please go to an urgent care or emergency department if you have the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Passing out or lightheadedness
- Vomiting constantly
- High fever that will not go down with medication
There are antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu that can work to block the influenza virus in your body. Flu antiviral medications can make flu illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For people with higher risk factors, treatment with an antiviral medication can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Flu antiviral medications work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick. Antiviral medications are different from antibiotics and they also do not treat the common cold. Consult your healthcare provider about antiviral treatments for the flu.
Riverside University Health System (RUHS) Community Health Centers are conveniently located across Riverside County and offers FREE flu shots from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
No appointment is needed to get a flu shot. Call 800-720-9553 for more information, updates and locations offering walk-in and drive thru flu shots.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but can be particularly serious for infants and older adults. It is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) in children younger than 1 year old in the United States.
Symptoms of RSV can include shallow or difficulty breathing, cough, poor appetite, listlessness or irritability and it can cause bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs).
RUHS Public Health offers the following recommendations to help prevent the spread of RSV and other diseases:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Keep children home when sick.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices
Call a healthcare provider and seek immediate medical attention if a child or anyone is having difficulty breathing.
Voluntary masking when indoors in schools and in public places provides protection from respiratory illnesses like RSV. And masking of adults around very young children (particularly those born prematurely) may also help to reduce the risk of RSV transmission.
Palivizumab is used in certain infants and young children to prevent serious lung infections (such as pneumonia) that are caused by a RSV. It is recommended for infants at high-risk for RSV due to conditions such as prematurity or other medical problems including heart or lung diseases. If you are concerned about your child’s risk for severe RSV infection, talk to your child’s healthcare provider.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDD) recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older and boosters for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible. Protect yourself and others from COVID by:
- Getting vaccinated and boosted
- Considering wearing a mask in crowded indoor settings
- Improving ventilation by gathering outdoors or keeping windows or doors open
- Getting tested as soon as symptoms present
- Staying home when sick and isolating from others
If you test positive, you can report your home test results.
Effective treatments are now widely available and free.
But, don’t delay! Treatment must be started within a few days after you first develop symptoms to be effective.
Contact your healthcare provider, or reach out to Riverside University Health System Public Health’s Therapeutics Branch by emailing Rivco.firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting our therapeutics website to learn about treatment options and places where you can get treatment.
If you don’t have timely access to a healthcare provider, check if a Test to Treat location is in your community. You can get tested, receive a prescription from a healthcare provider (either onsite or by telehealth), and have it filled all at one location.
Other Respiratory Viruses
Winter often sees several respiratory illnesses circulating among our communities. These can include such respiratory viruses as adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza and others that can cause the common cold. Sore throat and runny nose are usually the first signs of a cold, followed by coughing and sneezing. It can be difficult to differentiate between these illnesses and potentially more severe viruses or diseases, so testing with a healthcare provider can be helpful in determining the cause of symptoms.
Antibiotics do not work against respiratory viruses, so prevention and symptom management is key.
Viruses that cause colds can spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact. You can also get infected through contact with stool (poop) or respiratory secretions from an infected person. This can happen when you shake hands with someone who has a cold, or touch a surface, like a doorknob, that has respiratory viruses on it, then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose.
You can help reduce your risk of getting a cold:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash them for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular handwashing can help protect you from getting sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick.
- Stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.
Most people recover within about 7-10 days. Symptom management strategies can be helpful, such as over-the-counter nasal sprays, cough or throat drops, decongestants, and pain and fever medications. People with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions may develop serious illness, such as bronchitis or pneumonia that may require additional medical care.