Learn more about the flu versus coronavirus.
This year's flu season is unlike any other, because it’s likely to coincide with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With the flu season expected to start in October and last into March, the best weapon you and your family may have to guard your health is a flu shot. Research shows that a flu shot reduces the likelihood of severe symptoms by 40 to 60%, making it a worthwhile investment for your health. Despite the many benefits offered by flu vaccination, fewer than half of all Americans get an annual flu vaccine.
“We must take flu out of the healthcare equation as much as we can this season. It is important to prevent hospitalizations during a time when the health care system could become overtaxed,” says Dr. Bradley Adler, Internal Medicine, Scarsdale Medical Group. “Rapid flu tests will be helpful in distinguishing the flu from other illnesses. It is also important to emphasize to families that getting a flu vaccination is essential, particularly this year.”
Thousands Affected Every Year
The flu and COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, are both contagious respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms. Both the flu and COVID-19 can cause fever, cough, body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea, especially in children. COVID-19 originates from one virus, the novel 2019 coronavirus, and attacks the lower respiratory tract. The flu, which is caused by a number of different strains of influenza viruses, affects the upper respiratory tract of the lungs. Typically, flu symptoms develop more rapidly.
“A person with the flu usually shows symptoms 1 to 4 days after being infected, while someone with COVID-19 displays symptoms 5 days after being infected or up to 14 days later,” says Dr. Adler. “Most people recover from the flu within 7 to 10 days, but COVID can linger for weeks and cause severe complications of the cardiopulmonary systems and systemic inflammation of the blood vessels.”
Take a Shot at Beating the Flu
While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, there are many important benefits, including:
You’ll be healthier longer. The vaccine will reduce your chances of contracting certain strains of the virus and if you do get sick, having the vaccine can significantly reduce the severity of your symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. A person’s immune protection declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed to provide continuous protection. In addition, flu viruses constantly change and mutate, so flu vaccines have to be updated from one season to the next to protect against the latest version of the virus.
It’ll keep your child in school. Children have a talent for spreading germs, and a school environment is the perfect place for returning students to contract the flu. “By getting a flu shot now, your child’s immune defenses can be in place before the flu becomes widespread,” says Dr. Adler. “Some children may need two doses of the vaccine if they are under eight years old and haven’t received one before, so it’s important to start the process early, as the second dose is given at least 28 days after the first.”
It helps protect women during and after their pregnancy. A flu vaccination reduces the risk of acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by an average of 40 percent. Getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy also helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth, when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated.
Your Doctor is Prepared to Fight the Flu
Both coronavirus and the flu can be deadly. To date, COVID-19 has claimed nearly 200,000 lives in the United States alone. According to the CDC, there were between 24,000 to 62,000 flu-related deaths in the United States from October 2019 to April 2020, last year’s flu season. People most at risk to catch the flu include babies, pregnant women, seniors, essential workers and adults with underlying medical conditions. “We are preferentially using two major flu vaccines this year – standard and high dose, both of which include two serotypes of Flu A and two serotypes of Flu B,” said Dr. Adler. “We also have a high-dose vaccine for people 65 years and older that protects against four strains of influenza rather than three in the previous years and will help build antibodies, typically within two weeks.”
The best and most convenient place to get your flu shot is your doctor’s office as they can make sure you’re up-to-date on all your vaccines, so make an appointment today.