Keep gatherings this season safe and healthy with these tips.
As you plan for fall and winter celebrations, there are a few key steps you can take to try to make gatherings with friends and family healthier.
“In addition to flu and COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory viruses are in the community,” said Catherine Kroll, PeaceHealth’s system director of infection prevention. “The safest holiday celebrations are those that include the people you are normally around, such as your immediate family.”
Before an event
- Immune health. Practice good habits to maintain your immune system.
- Vaccination. It’s a good idea to make sure you and your family have gotten all recommended immunizations including a flu shot, COVID-19 vaccines and RSV, if eligible.
- Masking. Consider wearing a mask, such as an N95, in public in the days leading up to an event. Masks protect you against all respiratory viruses.
- Testing. At-home COVID-19 antigen tests are not perfect, but they can help prevent spreading. To catch an asymptomatic case, it’s best to test two days before an event and again the day of the event, before getting together.
- Review the infectious windows for viruses to avoid sharing your germs.
- Flu: Contagious for 5-7 days after start of symptoms.
- RSV: Contagious for 3-8 days after start of symptoms. Some people may be contagious up to two days before showing signs of illness. And some infants and people with weakened immune systems can spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.
- COVID-19: Evidence suggests that an omicron infection lasts 8-10 days on average. The CDC’s isolation and exposure calculator can help identify the steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.
- General safety. If you’re planning on having a drink, arrange ahead of time for a designated driver to allow everyone to get home safely.
During an event
Remember masking and hand hygiene recommendations. Other steps you could take to protect yourself and your family include:
- Attend outdoor activities, with fresh air, rather than indoor activities as much as possible. Make sure you have clothing to keep you warm and dry.
- Firework safety. Wear protected eye coverage and follow all safety instructions when around fireworks.
After an event
If you get sick after attending a celebration, take extra steps to protect yourself and others:
- Get familiar with RSV symptoms so you know if/when to call your child’s doctor.
- Consider getting tested. If you’re over age 65 or high risk, you could be prescribed an antiviral if you are positive for flu and COVID-19.
- Wash your hands often.
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Avoid visiting people at increased risk for severe illness or who are sick.