Doctor explains how to handle cold, flu symptoms during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:42 AM, Oct 16, 2020

As we head into cold and flu season, you can expect things will be handled differently at workplaces, schools, day cares and medical offices because of COVID-19.

Anyone with symptoms like a runny nose, a cough or sneezing will likely be asked to stay home.

“So, I think there's going to be a requirement for any of these symptoms for employee health at the workplace to take a larger role in screening patients probably a lot more testing,” said Dr. Scott Joy, Chief Medical Officer at Englewood Primary Care.

Joy spoke with us about how people should handle these symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. He recommends staying home for 24 hours when you have a cold without a fever.

If you have a fever, isolate for up to six days or until you've been fever free for a full 24 hours. If you're coughing or sneezing more than four times in an hour, you should probably stay home and see a doctor.

“We haven't had a metric like that before, so we're going to experiment with that data point and see what it does to our workforce and our clinic infection control over this season,” said Joy.

Joy also reminds people to get the flu shot.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found people who got the vaccine had 25% fewer episodes of upper respiratory infections than those who didn't. That means fewer sick days from work and fewer doctor visits.

The hope is that COVID-19 measures like handwashing, mask wearing and watching your distance will lead to fewer respiratory infections overall. But should you experience those symptoms, you may be directed to urgent care centers instead.

The idea is to keep doctor offices sterile, so people with chronic conditions and other issues feel safe coming in to see their primary care physician.

“In the last couple of months, people that have been putting off their care, I just diagnosed a gentleman, new diagnosis with pancreatic cancer,” said Joy. “We're detecting breast cancer, heart disease blood pressure that is out of control.”

Urgent care centers are equipped with personal protective equipment and are typically faster, and cheaper than a visit to a hospital emergency room. But you should call your doctor's office first to see what they recommend based on your symptoms.