What bug are you most concerned about catching this fall? Probably not the flu, when COVID-19 is top of mind for most people. But flu season is right around the corner, which could mean a looming double threat the likes of which we’ve never seen…
While there has been lots of discussion about the development of a coronavirus vaccine, it’s important to remember that other immunizations are still essential (and exist/are available!) for your health during the current pandemic. One immunization you won’t want to overlook heading into the fall season is the flu shot. With coronavirus rates still surging across the nation, this year’s flu season could be disastrous for public health if widespread proactive measures aren’t taken to keep seasonal influenza rates down.
Understand why flu prevention is so important this year.
Unfortunately, the presence of one health crisis won’t stop another from happening. In fact, flu season only compounds the difficulties that could be seen in managing coronavirus infections. Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory infections with many of the same symptoms, and if you’re sick with one, you will become more vulnerable to the other. In addition, being hospitalized for severe flu symptoms can increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure and add to the existing burden on local hospital systems. The good news is that, aside from immunization, prevention strategies for both illnesses are similar. Here’s what you can do beyond getting your flu shot to prevent the spread of the flu and coronavirus:
- Stay home as much as you can. When you do leave the house, wear a mask.
- Wash your hands often. Use hand sanitizer only as a backup when you can’t get to a sink right away.
- Keep your distance. Avoid close contact with others, maintaining a distance of 6 feet in public areas when possible.
- Avoid touching your face without first washing your hands.
Get your flu shot early.
While every year is a little different, flu season doesn’t typically get into full swing until late fall and winter. However, flu shots will be available in pharmacies and doctors’ offices in September. Getting your shot early is a good idea, because it will provide lasting protection. Individuals who are particularly vulnerable to the flu, such as seniors and immunocompromised individuals, should be especially vigilant about early vaccination.
That being said, some people should not have the flu shot or should wait to receive it. For example, if you are sick with COVID-19, you should not have a flu shot until you have met the appropriate criteria to discontinue isolation.
Know that flu shots are readily available.
In previous years, there have been shortages of the flu vaccine. Due to the severity of the current health crisis, manufacturers are producing record quantities of the vaccine, so it will be readily available across the U.S. In addition, you will likely find a wider range of sites administering the flu shot, including outdoor venues where proper social distancing is more feasible.
Don’t slack off on personal protection measures.
Remember that getting a flu shot doesn’t completely prevent you from getting the flu. However, it does make you less likely to get sick, and if you do become ill, a flu shot can help reduce the severity of your symptoms. Even still, a flu shot won’t offer any protection against coronavirus, and it is only part of a larger effort to promote good health for yourself and your community. In other words, now is not the time to start getting lax about social distancing, mask-wearing, and other forms of personal protection. If you’re not sure where to get your flu shot or you’re feeling the onset of respiratory symptoms, count on MeMD for quick, reliable care over the web. We’re here for you and your family 24/7, and can write prescriptions for antivirals like Tamiflu when medically necessary.