Health & Fitness: Staying Healthy, Finding Meds during Tripledemic
Local Pharmacist Mindy Leech of Lee-King Pharmacy offers tips concerning RSV, Flu and COVID.
By LATINA EMERSON, Special to The Weekly
During the perfect storm of illness this winter, staying healthy is going to require some additional effort. The circulation of three different respiratory viruses – influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – has become known as a “tripledemic.” Millions of people nationwide have become ill, hospitals are overwhelmed and there’s a shortage of children’s cold and flu medications and antibiotics.
Mindy Leech, owner and pharmacist at Lee-King Pharmacy in Newnan, offers some tips on how to stay healthy this winter and navigate the medication shortage.
Q: How can adults and children protect themselves from illness during the tripledemic of RSV, flu and COVID-19? Are certain populations at particular risk?
A: The best way to protect yourself is to vaccinate yourself against flu and COVID, practice good hand washing, and stay home if you feel sick. Even though wearing a mask isn’t fun, it also proved useful in preventing transmission of these illnesses. Older adults, young babies and people with suppressed immune systems are at the biggest risk for severe illness from these respiratory illnesses.
Q: Can adults and children still get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines to help protect them this winter (or is it too late)?
A: It is not too late to stay up-to-date with flu and COVID vaccines. You can receive them both at the same time.
Q: What is your advice for someone who becomes ill? Should they immediately take a COVID-19 test? Are over-the-counter flu tests available or does a person need to seek medical attention for flu testing? How does someone know when to seek medical help versus taking over-the-counter medication?
A: If you have symptoms, it is a good idea to first take an over-the-counter COVID test. They are now widely available and inexpensive. Flu tests have to be performed at an urgent care or doctor’s office. Many doctors will not see you, however, until you get a negative COVID test – which we can perform at our pharmacy. If you are a high-risk person or are feeling very sick with either illness, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know because they may want to prescribe you an antiviral for flu or COVID. Other than that, it is best to treat your symptoms with over-the-counter medications and vitamins. If at any time you have severe shortness of breath or your oxygen saturation is dropping, you should go to the emergency room.
Q: Do certain medications that help with COVID-19 and flu, such as Tamiflu or Paxlovid, need to be taken in a certain number of days of experiencing symptoms?
A: Yes, both should be started in the first 48 hours of symptoms for best results.
Q: Why is there a shortage of cold and flu medications and antibiotics? Do you think this shortage will end soon? What should people do if they can’t find the medications that they need?
A: There have been ongoing shortages of different medications since COVID started, which is frustrating to patients, doctors and pharmacists. Talk to your pharmacist if you can’t find a medication you need. We can often contact your doctor and find an alternative antibiotic. As for cold and flu medications, you may not be able to find the exact medication you are used to getting, but there are enough varieties out there so we can still cover your symptoms. It just takes patience and a little flexibility.
Q: If parents can’t find children’s cold and flu medication on the shelves, is it safe for parents to give smaller doses of adult medications to children?
A: No, make sure you speak with a pharmacist or doctor before giving children any adult medications.
Lee-King Pharmacy is at 18 Cavender St. in Newnan. For more information, visit www.leekingpharmacy.com.