COVID-19 has certainly been a priority, but don’t forget to prepare for the upcoming influenza season as well!
The Upcoming Flu Season
Last winter was a mild flu season, which was a blessing considering the ongoing pandemic struggles and the overburdened healthcare system. In spite of that, there is no guarantee that this winter will be the same story. The influenza virus generally affects seniors the most, with a higher risk of complications and mortality. A severe flu season can be quite devastating, and it is important for seniors to remain vigilant.
In fact, the CDC has some important updates to the flu vaccine information for 2021-2022:
- The composition of flu vaccines has been updated to match the circulating viruses
- All flu vaccines this year will be the quadrivalent (four component) variety. This means they are designed to protect against the four most common flu viruses, offering better coverage.
- Quadrivalent vaccines are now approved for people 2 years of age and older.
- A high-dose flu vaccine and adjuvanted flu vaccine are available for people age 65 and older. These are designed to produce more of an immune response.
- It is recommended that everyone get vaccinated, ideally before the end of October.
How Does COVID Interact with the Flu?
Although COVID-19 is sometimes described as a “flu-like” illness, it is a different type of virus, and is unrelated.
Some important facts to know:
- You can receive a flu vaccine as well as a COVID-19 vaccine.
- There are tests developed that test for both flu and Covid-19, so that the correct treatment can be provided. This is helpful because symptoms can be similar.
- The COVID-19 vaccine offers no protection against the flu, and vice-versa.
- Receiving a flu vaccine does not increase your risk of getting COVID-19.
- It is possible to contract both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Your risk is higher if you have not been vaccinated for both.
Protect and Prevent
It is important to get your flu vaccine every year, because the flu virus comes in many varieties. Scientists design the vaccine each year to match the varieties that are most commonly circulating. The flu vaccine offers a good amount of preventative coverage however it is not 100% effective against every flu virus strain. For this reason, everyday preventative habits are also important.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Wash hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at your workplace and home.
- Maintain good nutrition with a balanced diet and supplements if needed.
How Do I Know it’s the Flu?
The only way to know for sure if you have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19 is from a test your doctor can run. However, you can monitor your symptoms, stay hydrated, and contact your doctor by phone. He or she may direct you to a testing location and give you a plan for self-care at home.
If the illness is the flu, antiviral medications like Tamiflu can help. Your doctor can prescribe this during the first days of your illness to shorten the severity and duration.
Many people are sick of worrying about sickness – and may relax precautions for this reason. Don’t let the flu catch you off guard – make plans to talk to your doctor or public health department to get your flu vaccination taken care of.