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
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:
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- 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.