As fall turns into winter, the chance of catching a contagious respiratory illness tends to increase. This is due in part to weather conditions and the fact that people spend a lot more time indoors at this time of year.
With a global pandemic still at play, and a flu season that's expected to be worse than usual, you may have questions about how to protect yourself and what to do if you're sick. Below are answers to some common questions people have about these viruses.
Should I get a flu vaccine this year?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine this year unless your doctor has recommended that you do not get one for medical reasons (this is rare). Getting a flu shot is especially important for people who may be more at risk of complications from the flu, including adults ages 65+ and people with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and asthma.
Can I get a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?
Yes. You can get both vaccines at the same time. Or you can get a flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 booster shot. Whenever you get these shots, the most important thing is that you get them. The CDC recommends you get a flu vaccine by the end of October, although any time you can get it is better than not getting it at all. If you haven't gotten your initial COVID-19 vaccine, the sooner you can get it, the better. If you are getting a two-dose vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, stick to the recommended timeline between doses. And if you are eligible for a booster shot, get that shot when it's recommended.
If I am sick, will I be able to tell if I have the flu or COVID-19?
Many of the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar, such as fever, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, runny nose and sore throat, so you may not be able to tell what is causing your illness just by symptoms alone. The only way to confirm the diagnosis is by getting tested. Find a testing location near you.
Can I have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes, it is possible to be infected with both viruses at the same time. It is not yet known if having one virus makes you more susceptible to catching the other. But since both affect your immune system, you may be more vulnerable to catching another virus once you've been sick with one of them.
What's the best way to protect myself from the flu and COVID-19?
Getting vaccinated against both viruses is the best way to protect yourself, at least from serious illness. Other than vaccines, the same things that help you avoid COVID-19 will help you avoid the flu — wear a mask, practice social distancing, stay away from people who are sick and wash your hands often. Keep your immune system strong by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and reducing stress.
I'm not feeling well. What should I do now?
If you do come down with a respiratory illness like flu or COVID-19, FirstHealth can help. Our Convenient Care clinics are open seven days a week and can treat non-life-threatening illnesses and family medical care needs. We also offer FirstHealth on the Go, an app-based service that allows you to meet with a provider through a computer, tablet or smartphone.