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When is the Best Time to Get a Flu Shot This Year?

And Six Oth­er Ques­tions About Flu Sea­son Dur­ing COVID-19

As trees grow bare and the weath­er becomes cool­er, many of us are prepar­ing for a long win­ter ahead. A part of this prepa­ra­tion involves plan­ning for 2020 – 2021’s unpre­dictable flu sea­son cou­pled with COVID-19. Below are com­mon ques­tions you may have about this year’s flu sea­son and the cur­rent pandemic. 

Should I get a flu shot this year?

The short answer is YES. Get­ting a flu vac­cine this fall is more impor­tant than ever. Influen­za (or the flu) can cause seri­ous com­pli­ca­tions and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions even among healthy peo­ple. Whether you have received a flu shot in the past or not, receiv­ing a flu shot this year is an easy way to pro­tect your­self, your fam­i­ly, friends and com­mu­ni­ty from get­ting the flu and also help min­i­mize the bur­den that is cur­rent­ly placed on many health­care sys­tems, decreas­ing the amount of hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and unnec­es­sary health­care vis­its as we all con­tin­ue to fight COVID-19

While the vac­cine doesn’t elim­i­nate the flu from our com­mu­ni­ties com­plete­ly, it can pro­tect you from con­tract­ing this year’s most com­mon strains or decrease the sever­i­ty of your symp­toms if you do become infect­ed. Keep­ing your immune sys­tem healthy mat­ters more than ever as COVID-19 con­tin­ues to spread worldwide. 

Who should get the flu vac­cine in 2020

Every­one in your fam­i­ly, 6 months of age and old­er, includ­ing preg­nant women, should receive a flu shot. It not only pro­tects you; it also pro­tects your fam­i­ly and friends. Chances are, you know some­one who falls into a high-risk cat­e­go­ry. Accord­ing to the CDC, adults aged 65 and old­er or peo­ple with chron­ic health con­di­tions, includ­ing asth­ma, dia­betes and heart dis­ease, are con­sid­ered most vul­ner­a­ble to the flu. Pro­tect them while pro­tect­ing your­self by receiv­ing the flu shot. 

What is the best time to get a flu shot?

Flu sea­son emerges in ear­ly fall and can last through Spring. The CDC rec­om­mends that you receive your vac­cine some­time in Sep­tem­ber or Octo­ber for ulti­mate pro­tec­tion. How­ev­er, receiv­ing the vac­cine any time through­out the flu sea­son can help pre­vent the flu. 

Do I need more than one flu shot this year? 

You only need one flu shot to pro­vide pro­tec­tion from the flu this year. Your annu­al flu vac­cine can help pre­vent the flu through­out the entire flu season. 

What are the dif­fer­ences between flu and COVID-19?

Flu and COVID-19’s symp­toms close­ly over­lap, and every­one may expe­ri­ence symp­toms to vary­ing degrees of sever­i­ty. How­ev­er, you can help dis­tin­guish between the two virus­es by a key symp­tom – new loss of taste or smell. For exam­ple, if you feel con­gest­ed but can still taste mom’s home­made chick­en noo­dle soup, you may be expe­ri­enc­ing flu symp­toms. In con­trast, if one morn­ing, you pour a cup of cof­fee, take a sip and can’t taste any­thing, you may be expe­ri­enc­ing COVID-19 symp­toms. If you expe­ri­ence any of these symp­toms this sea­son, reach out to your pri­ma­ry care provider as they will pro­vide care rec­om­men­da­tions and test­ing options. 

Symp­toms

Cold

Flu

COVID-19

Onset of symptoms

Grad­ual

2 Days

2 – 14 Days

Body Aches

Some­times

Com­mon

Com­mon

Cough

Com­mon

Com­mon

Com­mon

Diar­rhea

Rare

Some­times

Some­times

Fatigue or Weakness

Some­times

Com­mon

Com­mon

Fever, Chills or Shaking

Rare

Com­mon

Com­mon

Loss of Taste or Smell

Nev­er

Nev­er

Some­times

Short­ness of breath or dif­fi­cult breathing

Rare

Com­mon

Com­mon

Stuffy nose

Com­mon

Com­mon

Rare

Sneez­ing

Com­mon

Some­times

Rare

Sore throat

Com­mon

Com­mon

Com­mon

Headache

Rare

Com­mon

Com­mon

*SOURCE: Illi­nois Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health

What should I do if I get sick with flu or COVID-19 symptoms? 

If you feel ill this sea­son, espe­cial­ly with flu or COVID-19 symp­toms, there are sev­er­al key steps you can take to safe­ly recov­er and lim­it the spread of any virus. The most impor­tant? STAY HOME, EXCEPT TO RECEIVE MED­ICAL CARE

By stay­ing home, you can give your body the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rest and recov­er as well as lim­it the expo­sure of any virus to your com­mu­ni­ty. As much as you can, self-iso­late in a sep­a­rate room away from oth­ers and wear a mask and social­ly dis­tance your­self when around any­one else. If pos­si­ble, try to not share a bath­room and per­son­al items, such as cups, eat­ing uten­sils, tow­els and bed­ding. While keep­ing your dis­tance may be dif­fi­cult, know that this is only tem­po­rary and is impor­tant to keep your loved ones healthy. 

Prac­tic­ing healthy habits when sick is also essen­tial. Both the flu and COVID-19 can take a toll on your well-being, mak­ing nor­mal day-to-day activ­i­ties dif­fi­cult. While on the mend, drink plen­ty of flu­ids to pre­vent dehy­dra­tion and get plen­ty of rest. Clear bev­er­ages, like water, ice chips and broth, along with sports drinks, are great options to stay hydrated.

It’s also impor­tant to con­tact your pri­ma­ry care provider for guid­ance as you nav­i­gate your ill­ness. We all react dif­fer­ent­ly when exposed to any virus; it’s best to stay con­nect­ed with your care team and keep a close eye on con­cern­ing symp­toms. Your provider can share care instruc­tions and advise what to do next, such as deter­min­ing if you may need a COVID-19 test. Video vis­its are avail­able for online sched­ul­ing with pri­ma­ry care providers to dis­cuss your care instruc­tions and next steps.

Once you have recov­ered, a deep clean will be in order. Click here for tips on deep clean­ing after being sick.

This year’s influen­za sea­son com­bined with COVID-19, calls for extra­or­di­nary mea­sures. To keep your­self and oth­ers safe, let’s pre­pare for the unknown and stay ahead of the game. Walk-in flu shot clin­ics are avail­able at sev­er­al DMG loca­tions through­out the Chica­go sub­urbs. With walk-in hours avail­able sev­en-days-a-week, you are your fam­i­ly can receive your flu shot at a time and loca­tion that is con­ve­nient for you. Click here to find your clos­est walk-in flu shot clinic.

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