Courtesy of Independent Health’s Corporate Wellness Team

With COVID-19 still circulating in our community, medical experts are warning that this year’s flu season could be worse than years past. Therefore, it’s important to get your yearly influenza (flu) vaccine and stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots. 

There haven’t been many hospitalizations or deaths from the flu since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but that could change this year because people are masking less these days and will spend more time indoors during the cooler weather. You can get sick with both infections at once and having both may make you sicker than getting just one. Getting both vaccines can prevent you and others from getting very sick. If you do get the flu or COVID-19 after being vaccinated, you’re much less likely to get seriously ill.

Get tested if you have symptoms

The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. However, since they have similar symptoms, the two can be hard to tell apart. COVID-19 and the flu have these symptoms in common:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

Unlike the flu, you may also experience a loss of taste or smell if you have COVID-19. Flu symptoms usually appear 1 to 4 days after infection, while COVID-19 symptoms may appear from 2 to 14 days after infection.

The only way to know for sure which illness you have is to be tested. If you have questions about COVID-19 testing, ask your doctor. Since the symptoms are so alike, it makes sense to act as if you have COVID-19 until your test results come back. This means staying home and limiting contact with people in your home. You’ll need to wash your hands often and disinfect surfaces that you touch. And be sure to wear a mask when you’re around other people. This is also good advice if you think you have the flu.

Make sure you are fully vaccinated

The flu vaccine and COVID vaccines and boosters are widely available at many of the same locations that administer the flu shot, such as your doctor’s office, pharmacy, supermarket, or community center. You can get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot at the same time, too. Plus, they’re covered at a $0 copayment by most health plans. As always, talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about getting vaccinated. For additional information about the flu and COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.