Cold and flu season is here, and the COVID-19 virus continues to spread in our communities. While COVID-19 vaccines are anticipated in the next few weeks, flu vaccines are available and there are many ways to get a flu vaccination this year.
It is always important to get a flu vaccination because the vaccine can prevent severe symptoms, hospitalization and death from the flu. This year, with the continued threat of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to get the flu vaccine because COVID-19 and the flu share very similar symptoms. The flu vaccine can prevent an illness that would otherwise be confused with COVID-19.
Flu vaccines do not cause COVID-19 or the flu, nor do they make you more likely to be infected with COVID-19.
More information on where you can get a flu shot locally can be found at samhealth.org/Flu.
If you do develop symptoms, how can you tell what you’re sick with or if you should you see a doctor?
It can be confusing to determine what symptoms relate to which illness, especially since flu and COVID-19 share many symptoms. Fever, body aches, chills, cough and fatigue can occur with both flu and COVID-19, while shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell are more common symptoms of COVID-19.
With any cold and flu-like illness, we continue to ask patients to call their primary care providers first so their symptoms can be assessed and they can be routed to appropriate care. It may not be possible to determine you have the flu or COVID-19 without testing.
If you have respiratory symptoms, you should stay home and limit contact with other people until all symptoms have resolved or you have been cleared by your doctor or local health department. This will help to avoid spreading the illness in the community.
Mask wearing and social distancing are not only effective for slowing the spread of COVID-19, these measures can be effective against spreading the flu as well. Since COVID-19 cases are increasing, continue to wear a mask, avoid close contact with people from outside of your household and monitor yourself for any flu-like symptoms.
Please remember to call your health care provider if you have any cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, or complete a Coronavirus Concerns visit through MyChart.
Adam Brady, MD, is an infectious disease specialist with Samaritan Health Services. He also leads Samaritan’s Coronavirus Task Force, which sets policy related to Samaritan’s response to the pandemic.