How you can treat the flu and protect yourself in the midst of the ‘tripledemic’

The trifecta of the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus have hit the D.C. area hard — reports show the region is facing the most confirmed cases in the country in the new “tripledemic.”

As hospitals face staffing shortages and an overwhelming number of new patients, some local doctors are recommending how you can treat it at home.

Dr. Cherokee Layson-Wolf of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy recommends getting your flu shot and using prescription medications for the flu within the first 48 hours of a confirmed case.

“It’s good to understand and know how to differentiate — ‘Is this the flu? Is this the cold? Is it COVID?’ — because we’ve got a lot of different things floating around right now. And so these medications are targeted only for people who have flu … so we have to have really responsible use of these medications,” she said.

Most states are reporting their greatest number of cases among young children and the elderly. And with the early arrival of the flu season this year, medical professionals recommend covering all your bases.

In both Maryland and Virginia, cases of the flu were reported as “very high” for multiple weeks at a time. In D.C., the beginning of flu season reported over 600 more positive cases than last year.

For people in high-risk populations, very young children and adults over 65, Layson-Wolf also recommends getting evaluated for the flu as soon as possible — either with a general care provider or at a neighborhood clinic.

“People who it would likely be good to explore [a professional antiviral option] are people who are going to be high-risk for flu-related complications,” Layson-Wolf said. “It’s good to have the conversation with their doctor if they [are] suspect [of] their symptoms, to see whether or not they’re good candidates for these vital antiviral medications.”

Over-the-counter medications that treat fevers, coughing and sneezing, or headaches are also good options for those who may not have a general care provider or access to an urgent care facility. However, for RSV, antibiotics will not help with symptoms.

“It’s certainly not a blanket recommendation that everybody who’s in these [higher risk] populations need to go contact their doctor immediately, because it really is on a case-by-case basis,” said Layson Wolf. “If they have more of these risk factors that are going to put them at risk for flu complications, then having the conversation with their provider would help them determine whether or not they need to get these antivirals.”

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

Ciara Wells

Ciara Wells is the Evening Digital Editor at WTOP. She is a graduate of American University where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining WTOP, she was the opinion team editor at a student publication and a content specialist at an HBCU in Detroit.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up