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How to Prepare for Flu Season During COVID-19

Health professionals across the nation are urging Americans to get vaccinated against the influenza virus this year to avoid the possibility of the flu colliding with the coronavirus pandemic. 

Here are some recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help prepare for the flu season and mitigate the strain hospitals may experience from the crossover.

When does flu season typically start and end?

Flu season starts as early as October and can last until January or February.

What’s the difference between the Flu and COVID-19?

“The similarities of the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses,” according to the CDC. Both the flu and COVID-19 can have varying degrees of symptoms, but the common symptoms include:

  • Fever or feverish chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

The difference in the viruses include:

  • Mild to severe illnesses of the symptoms above (Flu)
  • Loss of taste or smell (COVID-19)

Developing symptoms also vary between the flu and COVID-19. Typically, a person can develop flu symptoms anywhere between 1 – 4 days after infections. For COVID-19, a person can develop symptoms and appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection. It varies by person.

When should I get vaccinated for the flu?

According to the CDC, the best time to get vaccinated will be in September or October. The CDC also recommends avoiding a vaccination in July or August as it can reduce the likelihood of protection against the flu infection later during the Fall and Winter months.

Can I have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

It is very possible for someone to have both the flu and COVID-19, as well as other respiratory illnesses. Although research is still being done about COVID-19, it is not impossible to have both at the same time.

The best way to see determine if you have the flu or COVID-19 is to take a test.

Is there a test for both the flu and COVID-19?

Yes. The CDC has developed a test that will check for A and B type seasonal flu viruses and SARS CoV-2, or COVID-19.

Initial test kits were sent out in early August, contact your healthcare provider for more information, or head to the CDC website.

Will the flu shot protect me from COVID-19?

No. The flu shot only provides immunization against influenza viruses. However, if you receive a flu shot and start developing COVID-19 symptoms, a flu shot will help your physician determine a correct diagnosis.

What should I do after getting a flu shot?

Continue practicing safe precautions put forth by the CDC, which includes wearing a face mask in public settings, keeping 6 feet distance between you and other people, frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and practice good hygiene. It is also wise to have some medicine stocked in your cabinet in the event you do develop any symptoms – fever-reducing pills (Tylenol), ibuprofen for muscle aches, cough syrup and thermometer.

Should you start developing any symptoms for COVID-19 after receiving a flu shot, you may also consider self-quarantining for two weeks – if able to.

To find where you can get a flu shot, check with your healthcare provider, Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid, Wal-Mart.  

If you would like more information on how to navigate through flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit these websites: FAQ Flu Season 2020-2021 (CDC), Washington Post COVID-19 Article