This year has been particularly hard but going into cold and flu season, with a still ever present pandemic, has not put many at ease. However, there are some tips you can follow to keep your loved ones and yourself safe these winter months. From taking care of your general health, getting a flu vaccine, not skipping your yearly checkups and getting the medical attention you require for any chronic illnesses – having a patient doctor relationship with your primary care provider could prove to be just the ticket you need when combating the normal cold and flu and making sure you stay safe during COVID-19 restrictions.
“A primary care provider can serve as your medical home,” Justin Lande, D.O., an internal medicine provider with Ephraim McDowell Family and Internal Medicine said. “I think of primary care doctors like the hubs on a bicycle wheel and specialists as the spokes. Without a hub and spokes, we would not have a wheel. Everyone is equally important in terms of health care delivery, but the primary care can be the person who quarterbacks all of your questions and major concerns. Primary care providers can be the central point of contact to make your care more meaningful to you.”
A primary care provider helps treat diseases a patient might already have while also helping prevent others from being contracted. Treating acute illnesses such as cold and flu, strep throat, or helping with joint injections or skin procedures is another bonus of establishing care with a primary care provider. Making sure to schedule a yearly checkup with your provider can help prevent and treat conditions you may not have known existed.
“Yearly checkups are the point where we can truly focus on wellness,” Lande said. “Guidelines change, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting the most up-to-date health care. Yearly checkups are also the time we typically perform bloodwork to ensure that your body is functioning normally.”
Based on age and risk factors, Lande said yearly checkups can also help determine what diseases a person may be at risk for developing.
“For instance, if I notice a patient is overweight and their blood sugar is a little elevated we can hit weight loss early in the game to prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol from developing earlier in their life,” Lande said. “In primary care, we also really get to investigate a patient’s lifestyle. Lifestyle factors play a huge role in disease prevention.”
In fact, having established care with a primary care provider is one way Lande said an individual can maintain their health, even during the pandemic.
“I recommend following up with your provider to make sure any chronic diseases are managed well,” Lande said. “We know diabetes, heart disease, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are risk factors for developing severe complications associated with influenza or the COVID-19 virus. If you have these diseases, it’s important that you ensure you’re well managed. Get a flu vaccine, wash your hands, social distance, wear your mask and follow local guidelines.”
Also, keeping in mind the burdens this year has brought to all of us, and how different and unique everyone’s situation has been, can also be a helpful tip in our fight against Coronavirus, Lande said.
“Be kind to each other, follow the guidelines,” Lande said. “If you’re concerned about an exposure, or concerned about symptoms, please call your doctor’s office and ask how you should proceed. If you have an appointment and want to reschedule to a telehealth appointment, call your doctor and have them set it up for you. If you have questions please contact your doctor so that we can help guide which over-the-counter medications may be most appropriate for you, and in the event that your sickness needs to be evaluated, we would be happy to see you in person or telehealth with you to better figure out a plan of care.”
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Ephraim McDowell Family and Internal Medicine at (859) 236-4216.