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Second Opinion: When to Seek Medical Care for Your Respiratory Illness

Blue Shield of California’s senior medical director, Dr. Malaika Stoll, shares tips on how to address your symptoms and get the care you need this season.

As temperatures fall in winter and people gather indoors more frequently, respiratory illnesses rise, including COVID, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza (flu), rhinovirus (common cold), and various other respiratory viruses. Many respiratory symptoms overlap, making it difficult to know whether to carry on as usual, stay home, or seek medical attention.

Malaika Stoll
Dr. Malaika Stoll

Dr. Malaika Stoll, senior medical director at Blue Shield of California advises, “Pay attention to symptoms. You might not know the cause, but serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, or prolonged high fever – in adults 101.4 F - require an assessment from a medical professional.”

Dr. Stoll shares five tips to help you address respiratory symptoms this season.

  1. Prevention! Protect yourself and others
    • Get vaccinated for COVID, booster, and yearly flu.
    • Wear a mask, isolate when sick, and engage in frequent hand washing.
  2. Treat mild symptoms
    • Self-care, including over-the-counter medications, can be applied for mild symptoms, such as a stuffy nose or mild cough.
  3. Test at home
    • If you are experiencing respiratory systems, take a COVID-19 test at home. Even if you are unsure whether you have been exposed, positive or negative test results can help your doctor diagnose and treat you.
  4. Schedule a Virtual Care Visit
    • Virtual care visits are conducted via phone and or video call with healthcare providers. Consider a virtual care visit with your provider or if your plan allows, a Teladoc visit to explain your symptoms and to get medical guidance. There are tests and treatments available for many of the viruses discussed. They are a great way to get medical advice while staying safe at home.
  5. Seek immediate care
    • If you have difficulty breathing, dehydration, or persistently high fever, seek immediate care, possibly from an emergency or urgent care facility.

Get more tips from Dr. Stoll on staying healthy this season