Fall has arrived and so has comfortable weather, colorful leaves, pumpkins, football, bonfires, apple cider – and the beginning of influenza season.
While the flu vaccine is an essential part of preventative health every year, this year – in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – a flu shot is even more important.
“If there are less people getting severely ill from influenza, there will be more room in hospitals for those who might become ill from COVID,” says Dr. Joseph Morman of Family Physicians of Springfield. “Both influenza and COVID can be lethal diseases. We don’t want someone to get both illnesses in the same season, or even the same time. Each one of the diseases could put someone in the hospital or even in the intensive care unit.”
The flu vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the flu and the protection it provides might reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes such as hospitalization, according to Mercy Health – Springfield.
Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year, according to Mercy Health. People at high risk for serious complications, such as pneumonia, from the flu include:
- Children younger than 5
- Pregnant women
- People with asthma
- People with weakened immune systems
Dr. Morman says that because so many flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, it will be difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone.
“We will have great difficulty when we see people in the clinic and will likely be testing people for both (influenza and COVID),” he says.
Additional preventatives – also similar to COVID-19 precautions – to avoid contracting the flu include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
If anyone is on the fence about whether or not to get a flu vaccine, Morman says m they should consider the risk versus benefit.
“I’m happy that people get (the flu vaccine) whenever they can get it, but the golden month is October, so now is the perfect time,” Morman says. “’Now’ is always the perfect time.”