St. George, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/07/2021 --By now, everyone is familiar with the recommended — and often required — precautions related to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Masks. Social distancing. Hand washing. Staying home if you are feeling ill.
Interestingly, some of these precautions coincide directly with recommendations doctors have made for years in order to prevent the spread of the common cold and influenza. The fact that people have been stricter in adhering to the guidelines has had a major impact on this year's cold and flu season.
"We've definitely been more cautious than usual as a society," said Jay Hansen, MD, family practice physician at the Intermountain Sunset Clinic in St. George, Utah.
In a typical year, the highest incidences of cold and flu are concentrated from November to February, with some flu cases popping up through the end of May.
However, this year, Dr. Hansen said he has seen far fewer patients in his office complaining of cold and flu symptoms. This trend is reflected throughout the state of Utah according to GermWatch and nationally according to the CDC.
Statewide numbers provided by Dr. Tamara Sheffield, medical director of Community Health and Prevention for Intermountain Healthcare, indicate there were no reported cases of influenza or RSV from January to early February.
While these drastically lower numbers may be a result of the public's adherence to COVID-19 regulations, Dr. Hansen said it is important for people not to overlook the other areas that also impact a person's overall health.
"From a primary care standpoint, we want people to focus on a healthy lifestyle, such as eating right and exercising," Dr. Hansen said. "Because of COVID-19 guidelines, I'm seeing more people who are staying home and not doing anything. They're around the kitchen more, snacking more, not going to the gym or getting exercise."
Dr. Hansen said that when people start to slip in those basic healthy lifestyle choices, they are more susceptible to infections of all kinds.
"There is no question that healthy lifestyle plays a role in overall health," Dr. Hansen said, adding that in addition to eating right and exercising, people need to get enough sleep and manage their stress levels.
Some may see the decrease in cold and flu numbers as a reason to continue masking and social distancing even after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, but Dr. Hansen said people need to weigh the risks vs. benefits of adhering long term to such stringent regulations.
"These strict precautions have been beneficial to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses like cold and flu, but they have taken a toll on us emotionally," Dr. Hansen said. "I would not advocate for those limitations in the future, unless we are in another pandemic. Going forward, we need more of a moderate, sensible approach."
Such an approach includes focusing on healthy lifestyle habits, avoiding situations where you can be exposed to sickness and getting vaccinated.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.