Flu and RSV are peaking earlier than normal and more than 300 people a day are dying a day from COVID-19. And don't forget, flu kills some 600,000 people worldwide each year.

That triple threat has doctors on alert.

Correct Priest mug
Dr. David Priest
Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer, expects “a very challenging respiratory virus season” for 2022-23. But you can increase your of staying well, and staying out of a doctor’s office or hospital by getting your flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters.

Priest answers common questions and gives practical advice here.

What is RSV?

RSV is common and highly contagious. It mainly affects younger children, and nearly all children in the United States have had it by the time they’re two. Its symptoms mimic a cold and most people recover without any problem.

People with preexisting conditions, infants and the elderly face the most risk from RSV. The majority of Novant Health’s current pediatric hospital patients are there because of RSV, Priest said.

“RSV can be incredibly dangerous,” he said. “RSV causes a lot of inflammation of airways – and in children, because their airways are much smaller than an adult’s, a little inflammation can go a long way.”

community medicine PCP primary care find a doctor men's health boomer elderly

See a doctor, before you really need a doctor.

Act now

Which virus is it?

COVID-19, flu, and RSV all share similar symptoms. “They all can cause fever and headache and respiratory symptoms and aches and pains and so it’s very difficult for physicians even to distinguish them without testing,” Priest said.

He advised people to speak with their doctor’s office to determine if and when someone needs to be seen by a medical professional.

Why the early spike in cases?

The pandemic lockdowns also did a great job of keeping flu and RSV in check. But with few people wearing masks today, a return to normal school hours and resumption in public activities, viruses are spreading again. And while flu and RSV typically spike in the winter, a loss of immunity that came with life in lockdown has disrupted the normal timing. Priest said he expects the more traditional seasonal patterns to return.

What can we do to stay healthy?

The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated. Find answers to common questions and learn how to book your flu shot in seconds here.

The best protection from COVID-19 is getting vaccinated. Most COVID patients in Novant Health hospitals are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. That means they didn’t finish their primary vaccination series or haven’t received recommended boosters.

Don’t forget: the latest round of boosters are specially formulated to fight the current variant.

The eligibility parameters are a little different for each vaccine. Here are the specifics:

  • Moderna COVID-19 updated vaccine: Individuals 18 and older are eligible for a single booster dose if it has been at least two months since they have completed primary vaccination or have received the most recent booster dose with any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 updated vaccine: Individuals 12 and older are eligible for a single booster dose if it has been at least two months since they have completed primary vaccination or have received the most recent booster dose with any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Eligible? Schedule yours here or call your primary care physician's office to see if they offer COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. It’s safe to get flu and COVID-19 shots at the same time.

There is currently no RSV vaccine. Effective handwashing is one of the best defenses against that virus.

Action steps you can take now

  • To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine or booster: Schedule online or call your primary care physician's office.
  • To schedule a flu shot: Novant Health patients may schedule a shot with their primary care provider online. For those who don’t have a primary care provider, visit a Novant Health walk-in clinic.
    • Children from 6 months to 18 years of age should be vaccinated for seasonal flu each year. If your child is between the ages of 6 months and 9 years, your child may need two doses of vaccine given 21 days apart for the first time only.

Tips and reminders to help parents navigate tricky times

  • Please call or message your child’s primary care provider before going to the emergency department or your child’s clinic. In many cases, your child will be able to receive the care they need without even leaving home.
  • The Novant Health on-demand care team serves pediatric populations with pediatric doctors and advanced practice providers, or APPs, available 24/7 for video visits.
    • This team can order at-home tests for COVID-19, influenza and RSV all in one swab.
  • TytoHome technology is another option that allows Novant Health care teams to complete portions of a physical exam (e.g., lung sounds, pulse ox, temperature) for patients who have these devices.
  • Novant Health GoHealth Urgent Care clinics are available to patients older than six months and appointments may be scheduled online.
  • Novant Health offers after-hours triage and answering services powered by Care Connections, a 24/7 service line: 888-976-4982.
  • The emergency department is available for life-threatening injury or illness.

Tips for parents treating illnesses at home

  • Ask your doctor what you need to do to care for your child at home. Make sure to ask questions if you do not understand what the doctor says. This way you will know what you need to do to care for your child.
  • Have your child drink a lot of fluids, such as water, broth, sports drinks and ice chips. This will keep your child's fluid levels up. This is very important if your child is throwing up, passing liquid stool or less urine, or has no tears when crying.
  • Prioritize rest. Your child needs to rest to get better.
  • Use a machine that makes steam like a vaporizer or humidifier. It may help open up a clogged nose so your child can breathe easier.

When to seek immediate medical attention

  • Look for signs of fluid loss. These include soft spot on a baby's head looks sunken, few or no tears when crying, dark-colored urine or only a small amount of urine for more than 6 to 8 hours, dry mouth, cracked lips, dry skin, sunken eyes, lack of energy, feeling very sleepy.
  • Your child's fever or cough returns, does not go away or gets worse.
  • Throwing up or loose stools continue, and your child can’t keep liquids down.
  • Your child does not want to interact with others, be held or is confused.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child is not feeling better, or your child is feeling worse.

We also encourage home COVID-19 testing when possible. Using the care advice above, you can also treat fever and flu at home without needing a test.