THE BEST PROTECTION FROM MANY RESPIRATORY ILLNESSES IS IMMUNIZATION.

Whether it’s the threat of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or COVID-19, respiratory infections can cause serious and sometimes life threatening illness, particularly for those with weakened immune systems, older Americans, and the very young.

These respiratory threats are spread from person to person and can cause severe infections, worsen pre-existing respiratory conditions, and lead to short and long-term side effects — and nearly everyone is at risk of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends different immunizations to provide protection; build our defenses; and limit the severity, spread, and widespread threat of disease.

With many different vaccines recommended for different respiratory diseases, it can be challenging to sift through the information. Check out the following resources to learn more.

PROTECTING AGAINST RESPIRATORY ILLNESSES

COVID-19 remains a significant threat, with thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths on a weekly basis in the U.S. Those with weakened immune systems, chronic illnesses, and other risk factors are particularly vulnerable to severe illness from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Who needs to be protected?

The best way to help prevent COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant people, stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccination.

What vaccine options are available?

Three COVID-19 vaccine options are available, including two mRNA (Moderna and Pfizer) and one protein subunit (Novavax) option.
Visit Vaccines.gov to find COVID-19 vaccines near you.

I’m feeling lousy. How do I figure out what I have?

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about symptoms for COVID-19, flu, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, and RSV.

Symptoms of COVID-19 may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you have symptoms for COVID-19, it’s important to get tested. There are many test options available over-the-counter and through home collection kits, and most healthcare providers offer testing.

What should I do if I or a loved one has COVID-19?

It’s important to follow guidance from the CDC to help protect yourself from severe disease and prevent spread to others.

Some individuals may be at higher risk of contracting severe COVID-19. If this applies to you, reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine the best antiviral treatment option for you. Oral antivirals to treat COVID-19 are most effective within the first few days of symptom onset and help prevent severe disease and hospitalization.

As we enter the fall and winter season each year, the influenza virus becomes a significant concern, causing between 100,000–710,000 hospitalizations and 4,900–52,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Flu vaccines offer a targeted defense against the most likely and common strains each year, reducing the risk of infection and its potential complications. There is also some evidence that flu vaccination can help prevent cardiovascular events.

Who needs to be protected?

Everyone is vulnerable to the flu virus, and the best way to help prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant people, receive their flu vaccine every year.

What vaccine options are available?

Flu vaccines are available for most people, and options, which include inactivated injectable, recombinant injectable, live attenuated nasal spray, high-dose, and adjuvanted vaccines, may differ based on age groups.

Certain flu vaccines are not recommended for older adults, pregnant people, or individuals who have certain health conditions, so check with your healthcare provider to determine the right option for you.

Visit Vaccines.gov to find flu vaccines near you.

I’m feeling lousy. How do I figure out what I have?

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about symptoms for COVID-19, flu, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, and RSV.

Symptoms of flu may include:

  • Fever/feeling feverish or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

If you have symptoms for the flu, it’s important to get tested. There is testing available through an over-the-counter option as well as at-home collection kits, and most healthcare providers offer testing.

What should I do if I or a loved one has the flu?

It’s important to follow guidance from the CDC to help protect yourself and your family from getting sick and prevent spread to others.

Antivirals to treat flu are most effective when started within the first two days of symptom onset and may help prevent severe disease and hospitalization. For those at higher risk for developing a more severe case of the flu, talk with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment option for you.

Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is a serious disease caused by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis and may lead to coughing fits for weeks. Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for infants, and about 1 in 3 of babies younger than 1 year old who are infected require hospital care.

Who needs to be protected?

The best way to help prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone — including infants, children, preteens, adults, and pregnant people — stay up to date on their pertussis vaccination.

Because whooping cough is most dangerous for babies, staying up to date is important for anyone who is around babies, including parents, siblings, grandparents, caregivers, and friends of the family.

What vaccine options are available?

There are a number of vaccines available to protect individuals from whooping cough and options will depend on age.

I’m feeling lousy. How do I figure out what I have?

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about symptoms for COVID-19, flu, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, and RSV. Symptoms of whooping cough may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Mild, occasional cough (particularly for teens and adults)
  • Coughing fits (particularly for infants), which may end with a high-pitched “whoop” sound, provoke vomiting, or result in a red or purple face.

If you have symptoms for the whooping cough, you may need to reach out to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis, which may require a physical exam and/or lab testing.

What should I do if I or a loved one has whooping cough?

It’s important to follow guidance from the CDC to help protect yourself from severe disease and prevent spread to others. Early treatment is very important in making whooping cough less serious and preventing spread, so consult with your healthcare provider on the best treatment plan. Providers typically use antibiotics to treat whooping cough.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, and can result in many different types of infections, including pneumonia (lung infection). In the U.S., pneumococcal pneumonia leads to over 150,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually.

Who needs to be protected?

The best way to help prevent pneumococcal disease is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that the following groups stay up to date on their pneumococcal disease vaccination:

  • Children younger than 5 years
  • Children 2 through 19 years with certain risk conditions
  • Adults 19-64 years old with certain risk conditions
  • Adults 65 years or older

What vaccine options are available?

There are two types of pneumococcal disease vaccines recommended by the CDC based on age and past pneumococcal vaccine history. Ask your healthcare provider to determine the right option for you.

I’m feeling lousy. How do I figure out what I have?

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about symptoms for COVID-19, flu, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, and RSV. While pneumococcal disease can result in many types of infections, symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever or chills
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to lights

Early diagnosis is very important for serious pneumococcal disease. Reach out to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis, which may require some lab testing.

What should I do if I or a loved one has pneumococcal disease?

Early treatment is very important, so consult with your healthcare provider on the best treatment plan. Providers typically use antibiotics to treat pneumococcal disease.

RSV is a cold-like illness that, like many others, begins with coughing and sneezing. But unlike the common cold, RSV is highly contagious and can turn dangerous, with young children and older adults being at the highest risk. RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for infants in the United States and causes between 6,000 and 10,000 adult deaths annually.

Who needs to be protected?

The best way to help prevent RSV is to get immunized.

The CDC recommends that infants, young children, and older adults ages 60+ get protected against RSV.

The CDC also recommends that pregnant people should receive an RSV vaccine between 32–36 weeks of pregnancy to protect their infants after birth. For mothers who did not receive an RSV vaccine during pregnancy, the CDC recommends giving a preventive antibody to newborns after birth.

What vaccine options are available?

For older adults ages 60+:

For infants:

  • One maternal RSV vaccine is available to help prevent RSV in infants through vaccination of pregnant individuals.
  • A preventive antibody, nirsevimab, is available for:
    • Infants under 8 months born during or entering their first RSV season if the mother has no or unknown RSV vaccination history, or the RSV vaccine was received less than 14 days prior to birth.
    • Young children 8–19 months who are at increased risk for severe RSV and entering their second RSV season.

I’m feeling lousy. How do I figure out what I have?

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about symptoms for COVID-19, flu, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, and RSV.

Symptoms of RSV may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

There are currently no over-the-counter tests available for RSV, but testing options are available through healthcare providers and home collection kits.

What should I do if I or a loved one has RSV?

For most adults, RSV is mild and resembles a common cold. For infants and older adults, RSV can be very serious. Unlike other respiratory conditions, there is no specific treatment for RSV, but supportive care is available to help ease symptoms. Consult with your healthcare professional if you or a loved one is experiencing worsening symptoms.

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