What you should know about this year’s flu threat.
COVID-19 has grabbed all the headlines for good reason. It’s the deadliest pandemic the world has ever seen, mobilizing governments and citizens around the globe in a fight to contain it. But there may be an unintended consequence no one could have foreseen.
Many experts, like Infectious Disease Specialist Soniya Gandhi, MD at Cedars-Sinai, have noted that flu outbreaks last year were at their lowest in recent memory. "We did not see one flu case at Cedars-Sinai last year, which is unheard of. That was because everyone was masking, socially distancing, being very conscious of hand hygiene, and really trying to isolate if they were sick."
That’s important because resistance or immunity may also be at their lowest levels–just as we’re all feeling more confident about mingling maskless in public.
Here’s a few to-dos and to-don’ts as we head into flu season.
Get vaccinated (again). Flu shots are still the #1 defense for everyone 6 years-old and up. And no, COVID-19 vaccines are not effective against influenza.
Keep your distance (just a little longer). Social distancing has us all feeling a bit more disconnected, but it’s better than the alternative.
Wash ‘em often. Soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers are kryptonite to flu (and COVID) germs.
Stock up on over-the-counter meds. Here’s a short list of things to keep in your medicine cabinet:
- Fever reducers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Cough syrup
- Flu & cold remedies
- A thermometer
Call your doctor. Many symptoms are the same for flu and COVID-19. To make matters worse, experts believe it’s possible to catch a double whammy. If you develop fever, a cough, shortness of breath and muscle aches, call your doctor.
Don’t go to work/school. Stay home from work, school, and errands when you’re sick to prevent spreading your illness to others.
Hands off your eyes, nose & mouth. What was true for COVID is true for the flu. Avoid touching areas that are basically portals for possible infection.
Don’t ignore symptoms. If you’re experiencing persisting or worsening symptoms, get medical care. It bears repeating that experts are expecting a severe flu season. Every year, the flu results in hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and many thousands of deaths. It may not carry the same risks as COVID-19, but it’s nothing to be trifled with.
Where to get your shot?
Flu vaccines are widely available. You can schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor. Most pharmacies have vaccines by appointment and/or serve walk-ins. Many city and county health departments also provide vaccine clinics.
Gifthealth provides COVID and flu vaccines by appointment or on a walk-in basis.
Flu shots available:
- Quadrivalent covering four virus strains providing superior protection compared to trivalent flu shots
- High dose for individuals 65 years and older
- Egg-free for vegans or individuals with egg allergies
- Thimerosal-free for pregnant women and individuals who want a preservative-free flu shot
COVID-19 vaccines available:
- Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and boosters
- Moderna vaccines and boosters
- Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccines and boosters