Patient-doctor Q&A with tips on how to stay healthy during cold, flu, and COVID season.
Interview by Alex Moresco
As a Lyme disease patient that also suffers from Specific Antibody Deficiency (in layman’s terms- I literally have no immune system) I am always on the offense when it comes to cold and flu season. Vitamin C? Sure. Hand sanitizer? My best friend! Mask? Been wearing one for years!
In 2020, we not only have to worry about the cold and flu- but also COVID-19. To try to get a grasp on cold, flu and COVID season- I recently sat down with Dr. Casey Kelley, an Integrative and Functional Medicine specialist (and LLMD), and the founder of Case Integrative Health, who has been reporting live from Chicago as an Illinois COVID-19 expert on the news.
Dr. Casey Kelley graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine and completed her residency in Family Medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago. She is a ten-year member of the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), a Director on the board of The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), and is a Founding Member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM). Dr. Kelley is also on the faculty at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.
Q: With the cold and flu season quickly approaching, is there any way to differentiate between the illnesses? If I get sick, should I just assume I have COVID-19 and self-isolate as a precaution?
Great question! It can be hard to differentiate between the two as they can both cause fever, cough, body aches and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. The flu doesn’t seem to cause the loss of sense of smell or taste that we see in COVID-19. In this climate, if you get these symptoms, self-isolate (no one wants to catch the flu either), and talk to your doctor about the best testing options for you.
Q: Do you believe there will be another spike in COVID-19 cases during the winter season? Is there anything extra (besides wearing a mask, frequent handwashing, etc.) that I can do to protect myself?
It is highly likely we will see a spike as the weather turns colder. There are plenty of things that you can do to help protect yourself from developing serious symptoms.
- Eat well! Try to avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, gluten and dairy – as well as fast food and sodas. Try to eat lots of vegetables and fruits.
- Get plenty of rest! Aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every night.
- Move! Especially those of us who sit more than ever now, we need to get up and walk and exercise to our toleration.
- Manage your stress. Who isn’t stressed out right now?! But the more we can do to manage our stress levels the better for our immune system. Meditation, gratitude, laughter – all important.
- Supplements. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you, but vitamin D, C, Zinc, and A all help keep your immune system strong.
Q: If I do fall sick with the flu, what are my next steps? Is there anything I should immediately implement into my health and wellness routine?
Everything that will help you prevent viral illnesses (see above) will help if you get sick too. If you get sick – take care of yourself! Don’t try to work through it. Stay home, rest, dink plenty of water and talk to your doctor.
Q: I have read stories of COVID-19 “long haulers”, people who are struggling with long-term effects of the illness- and many doctors not believing these long-term symptoms, similar to chronic Lyme disease. What are the main symptoms? Is anyone more prone to these symptoms than others?
We are seeing a lot of chronic fatigue in post-COVID patients, but other people do have symptoms that are similar to tick-borne infections: widespread pain, brain fog, headaches, fatigue, insomnia. People who have immune system dysfunction due to tick-borne infections, auto-immune diseases, fibromyalgia, and other chronic illnesses do seem to have a higher likelihood of lingering symptoms. Prevention is key – so do you best to keep your immune system strong and work with an Integrative Medicine doctor to go through a personalized plan.
Q: Many restaurants and bars around me are opening up, but the positivity rate in the US is rising and I feel uneasy about going to public places, especially indoors. From your professional perspective- what is safe to do right now, and what should I know before I venture outside?
Don’t forget – the positivity rate is increasing in part because we are testing a lot more. Severe illness and deaths from Covid-19 are much lower than before. This is great news!!! That means that the illness is still around, but less people are dying from it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously or be cavalier about it. So be smart and wash your hands! If you are battling a chronic illness, continue to social distance and stay away from large gatherings. And wash your hands. Do go outside, especially to be in nature – being outside in nature (with your bug spray on of course) is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy.
Q: Like many others- I am feeling an increased sense of anxiety during this pandemic. What are you personally doing to mentally detox week to week?
I have devoted “me time” every morning. It may sound crazy, but I wake up at 5am to have some time to myself. I read, journal, meditate, exercise or stretch. It’s my chance to get organized for the day and keep a positive attitude. It’s a great way to start my day. I also try to get outside as much as possible and walk to work when I can. And I try to put my phone/computer down and spend some quality time with my family every night. It takes work, but it’s all worth it!!
*If you suspect you may have COVID-19, please call the office of your health care provider.
Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.
As someone who lives with Lyme & other illnesses, Alex Moresco’s mission in life is to help others and better the lives of those living with tick-borne illness. As the co-founder of two separate fundraising events in Chicago, She’s raised over $350,000 for Global Lyme Alliance.
You can find Alex Moresco on Instagram.
As someone who lives with Lyme & other illnesses, Alex Moresco’s mission in life is to help others and better the lives of those living with tick-borne illness. As the co-founder of two separate fundraising events in Chicago, She’s raised over $400,000 for Global Lyme Alliance. For interview suggestions, information or just to say hi, you can connect with Alex on Instagram at: @alitmoresco