Catching up on screenings, checkups as pandemic winds down

As people venture out more with vaccinations ramping up, there’s still the risk of catching diseases other than COVID-19, and many of us have been missing out on regular health screenings due to the pandemic.

Without our normal COVID-19 precautions like masks and social distancing, we’re going to be more exposed to other infectious agents than we have been for the last year. All it takes is one family member catching a cold to infect the whole house.

Doctors are seeing a significant uptick in people showing viral symptoms. Antibiotics won’t help you in this case, so the most important thing you can do is keep yourself as healthy as possible. If you do get sick, you can manage your symptoms with over-the-counter medications and lots of fluids. Handwashing is still going to be your best defense against germs, and you can help your whole family out by teaching your kids to cough or sneeze into their elbows rather than their hands.

“I would say that it’s really important, also, just to really keep yourself healthy,” said Dr. Rebekah Bernard with Gulf Coast Direct Primary Care. “If you’re not getting enough sleep, if you’re not eating right, if you’re not drinking enough water, you know, all of these really basic things… we need all this for our body to function optimally. So, if you’re not taking good care of yourself, then you’re going to be a little more prone to getting these infections.”

Doctors saw almost 10 million cancer screenings missed over the past year due to the pandemic, and they say that this is leading to backups in appointments and many missed diagnoses. This is happening in all areas of medicine; even dentists are saying they’re seeing patients come in with dental diseases they didn’t have before the pandemic. The National Cancer Institute predicts the number of people who will die from certain types of cancer will rise by almost 10,000 in the next decade due to these delayed screenings.

Doctors say it’s imperative that you fulfill your yearly appointments as soon as possible.

“Cancers don’t just disappear because we had COVID, they’re still going to occur at probably the same rate that they always did occur,” Bernard said. “But we may not just be diagnosing them… quite as quickly. It’s definitely better to get that detected and treated early before it becomes more difficult or impossible to treat.”

Unless you live in a bubble, you’re going to be at risk for viral infections and germs, especially as we get back out into the world. But doctors say there is good news: Our immune systems are very used to fighting off these more common infections, so you won’t even get sick most of the time.

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