COVID-19 & The Flu | News | Loyola Medicine
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Getting a Flu Shot Has Never Been More Important

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Loyola University Medical Center's chief medical officer says the flu vaccine can help prevent widespread illness this fall and winter

image of viruses that illustrate the difference between COVID-19 and the Flu

MAYWOOD, IL – This fall, children and adults should receive a flu shot to prevent widespread illness, as cases of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu are expected to rise, potentially at the same time, says Loyola University Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Kevin Smith, MD. The flu and COVID-19 also share many of the same symptoms.

“Unlike COVID-19, the flu can be prevented by a vaccine,” says Dr. Smith, who appears in the new Loyola Medicine video “COVID-19: Getting a Flu Shot Has Never Been More Important.” Therefore, everyone should get a flu shot, ideally when the vaccine first becomes available in September and October.”

It typically takes two weeks to develop immunity following a flu shot.

“The flu vaccine is especially important for older adults, and anyone with a chronic condition that makes them more vulnerable to severe flu or COVID-19 symptoms and complications,” says Dr. Smith. “It is possible to contract the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. There’s also a real concern that flu and COVID-19 cases may simultaneously spike in the U.S., which could seriously impact the health care system’s ability to optimally care for all patients.”

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends flu shots for anyone older than six months old with “rare exceptions.” The flu season typically runs from October through March. Flu shots are widely available and covered by insurance.

Flu vs. COVID-19 symptoms

The flu and COVID-19 share many of the same symptoms, “and it can be really difficult to distinguish between the two,” says Dr. Smith; however, testing can provide a definitive diagnosis. Both COVID-19 and the flu can cause:

  • Fevers
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting and diarrhea (less often)

How to stay healthy this fall

In addition to getting a flu shot, Dr. Smith recommends that everyone continue to adhere to CDC COVID-19 safety guidelines to prevent illness this fall and winter. The recommendations include:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Social distancing
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Staying home if you are not feeling well
  • Monitoring your symptoms

When should you call the doctor?

“If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, you should contact your doctor or a health care provider,” says Dr. Smith. Loyola Medicine offers both in-person and telehealth (video) care.

“It’s also important that you monitor your symptoms and seek immediate care if you or a loved one is having difficulty breathing, no longer eating or drinking, and/or continues to have a high fever, especially one that lasts several days or more."

To schedule an appointment with a Loyola Medicine physician, visit loyolamedicine.org or call 888-584-7888.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.