Primary Care

7 things to know about flu this season

7 things to know about flu this season

Doctors are approaching flu season a little differently this year due to COVID-19.

“Since we can’t say for sure what will happen with flu and COVID-19 circulating at the same time, we need to err on the side of caution this fall and winter,” says Priscilla Bullen, FNP-BC, of Riverside Primary Care Hidenwood. 

To help you get prepared, here are seven things she says you need to know.

1. Getting your annual flu shot this season is more important than ever.

Because COVID-19 will likely still be circulating this flu season, health care experts are pushing even harder for everyone who can get a flu shot to get one this year.

“We always recommend an annual flu vaccine, but reducing the number of illnesses and hospitalizations is even more important right now due to COVID-19,” Ms. Bullen says.

2. Most vaccines this season will protect you from four types of flu.

Flu vaccines change every year to include the types of influenza viruses researchers believe will be most common in the upcoming flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99 percent of this season’s flu vaccine supply will be quadrivalent. This means they’ll protect against four types of influenza viruses.

3. The same precautions recommended for the COVID-19 virus can also reduce the spread of flu viruses.

These precautions include:

  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Wearing a mask does help limit the spread of the Flu and COVID 19. The best advice is to stay home if you have the flu.

4. It can be hard to tell the difference between flu, a cold and COVID-19.

Flu symptoms often occur suddenly and are more severe than cold symptoms, but some signs and symptoms of flu, a cold and COVID-19 overlap. Similar symptoms include cough, sore throat and runny nose.

Ms. Bullen urges anyone who has these symptoms – or anyone who doesn’t feel well, especially with a fever – to stay home and call their health care provider for guidance.

5. It’s possible to get flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

This gives you another reason to strongly consider getting a flu vaccine – you’ll at least be protected against flu or flu complications.

6. This year, if your rapid flu test comes back negative, your doctor may order a COVID-19 test.

Because flu and COVID-19 can have similar symptoms, the CDC recommends that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms get tested for the virus.

7. Or your doctor may suggest a rapid COVID-19 test before a rapid flu test.

Rapid COVID-19 tests are now available in certain places in the U.S. Like rapid flu tests, they deliver results in about 15 minutes. Other facilities may have PCR swabs that take a couple of days to return.

“If your doctor thinks your flu symptoms could actually be COVID-19 and they have access to the new rapid result tests, you may receive a rapid COVID-19 test first,” Ms. Bullen says.

Note: The CDC has developed a test that checks for both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, but this test is currently only available at U.S. public health laboratories.

Always, the best way to get ready for flu season is with a flu shot. Riverside offers free flu shots for those ages 14 and up while supplies last. Learn where and how to get your free flu vaccine

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