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Fight the Flu—Get Vaccinated!

By Caroline DeFilippo, MD MPH | Internal Medicine 

-Updated 9/15/2020

With fall right around the corner, cold and flu season will soon be upon us. We can expect that the new reality of COVID-19 will only complicate the influenza (flu) season. The flu affects millions of people each year. It is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can be a very serious disease which can lead to hospitalization and even death.   This year, the flu vaccine is more important than ever.  As we all are aware,  COVID-19 has the potential to overwhelm our hospitals and health care systems, so people with the flu may not receive adequate care in the crowd of COVID-19 patients in emergency rooms and intensive care.  If you contract the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, your recovery can be extremely lengthy, and if you have a serious illness or pre-existing condition, your survival rate may be low.  The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get the flu vaccine and to continue to practice social distancing, rigorous hand washing, wearing a mask and staying away from people who may be sick.

In the U.S., the flu season is most common in the fall and winter; however, seasonal influenza viruses are detected year-round. Typically, flu activity begins to increase in October, peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills (*not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

The flu shot reduces your chances of getting the flu, the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, and helps prevent spreading the flu virus to others.

Who Should Get the Flu Shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age six months of age and older get vaccinated; however, the flu shot is particularly important for pregnant women, adults age 50 and above, and children.

People with the following chronic medical conditions should also strongly consider getting the flu vaccine:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Kidney Disease
  • Liver

Simple Ways to Stop the Flu

  • Get the flu vaccine
  • Cover your mouth and nose
  • Sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow
  • Put on a facemask
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water or use hand sanitizer
  • Stay home if you get sick

Contact your primary care physician’s office to arrange for a flu vaccination. Vaccines typically are available beginning in September. Speak with your physician prior to getting the vaccine if you have had a negative reaction to a previous vaccine, are allergic to eggs or mercury, or have a fever.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention