There are various health and safety measures we should practice to help boost our immunity and decrease our risk of getting sick. Continue implementing COVID-19 protective measures such as washing your hands, avoiding people who are sick, and wearing a mask. Other healthy lifestyle practices include getting enough sleep each night, eating healthy meals, and exercising regularly (Providence Mind & Body Team, 2020). These habits can better prepare our bodies and immune systems to avoid or fight off a virus. One other key preventive measure is to get your flu shot.
Flu Season 2021 and COVID-19 Booster Shots
The 2020-2021 flu season saw unusually low activity. As a result, there were fewer flu cases, hospitalizations, and deaths compared with previous flu seasons. These lower flu cases are likely due to the COVID-19 safety measures such as wearing masks, staying home, washing hands, physical distancing, and reduced travel. Additionally, a record number of flu vaccine doses were administered during 2020-2021, which also may have contributed to reduced flu illness (Centers for Disease Control, 2021a).
However, this 2021-2022 flu season may be different since schools and workplaces are open, and travel is resuming. Therefore, it is important to get your flu shot this year, especially as the Delta variant continues to circulate simultaneously. Flu season starts in October, and it is recommended to get the flu vaccine by the end of October (Kritz, 2021). For many older adults, this may coincide with the time to get the COVID-19 booster shot as well. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines, including the booster shots, may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines. This means that individuals can received the booster shot and flu shot at the same time, or without waiting 14 days in between vaccines, as was previously recommended (Centers for Disease Control, 2021b).
Older adults continue to be at greater risk of serious illness or complications from both the flu and COVID-19 (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.). Thus, it is especially important to be prepared for flu season once again this winter.
Flu Shot Benefits
The flu can be a serious illness for anyone, but older adults are at greater risk for flu-related complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the 2018-2019 flu season, there was an estimated 34,200 flu-related deaths (Nania, 2020). The flu can also increase the risks of heart attacks and strokes (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, n.d.). While the flu shot is not 100% effective in preventing the flu, it can reduce the severity of illness in people who do get it. Both the flu and COVID-19 can lead to a serious lung injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), where breathing becomes difficult (Nania, 2020).
Getting a flu shot can also help minimize overcrowding your local health care system, as hospitals may already be overwhelmed with COVID-19 (Nania, 2020). It can also help protect you from the flu or lessen the severity of the illness so that you do not have to go into the hospital or experience more serious complications.
A few different versions of the flu shot are available, depending on your needs (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.). For people age 65 and older, they may choose between a regular flu shot or an enhanced flu shot that creates a stronger immune response to the vaccination. The CDC does not recommend one flu shot over the other; rather, everyone over the age of 65 is encouraged to get a flu shot every year (Centers for Disease Control, n.d.). While it is best to get a flu shot as early as September or October, getting one during the middle of flu season can still offer protection (Centers for Disease Control, 2020c). With insurance, flu shots are typically free at pharmacies. Without insurance, flu shots can range from $20 to $70 (Marsh, 2020). However, many county health departments or free clinics offer free or low-cost flu shots.
Visit VaccineFinder.org to find a safe and convenient location near you. You may need to schedule an appointment to get the flu shot.
Cold, Flu, and COVID-19 Symptoms
Understanding the symptoms of the common cold, flu, and COVID-19 is important to help give you a peace of mind and also understand when you should contact your doctor with questions about your symptoms. The common cold and flu have similar symptoms but are caused by different viruses, and have different treatments. Since COVID-19 is a new virus, information about its symptoms and impact continues to evolve. Please note that individual symptoms should not be used to self-diagnose an illness. Although COVID-19 may have more unique symptoms such as shortness of breath or loss of taste or smell, be sure to share all symptoms with your doctor before assuming you have a specific illness. Regardless of a cold, flu, or COVID-19 diagnosis, if you are feeling sick, isolate yourself from others to prevent further spread of any of the viruses.
- Gradual symptom onset
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Mild to moderate cough
- Abrupt symptom onset
- More severe cold symptoms
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
General Warning Signs (Providence Mind & Body Team, 2020):
If you experience any of these warning signs, contact your doctor right away as it may turn into something more serious.
- Persistent fever over 100.4°F in addition to taking fever-reducing medication
- New or worsening shortness of breath
- Confusion or disorientation
While preparing for flu season, it is important to continue COVID-19 health and safety practices this fall and winter. Wearing a mask and washing our hands help minimize the spread of COVID-19 as well as the viruses that cause the common cold and the flu. Following these guidelines and recommendations will keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our community safe and healthy.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Influenza (Flu). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/65over.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020a). The Difference Between Cold and Flu. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020b). Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020c). Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021a). 2020-2021 Flu Season Summary. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021b). Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Approved or Authorized in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/clinical-considerations/covid-19-vaccines-us.html#Coadministration
Kritz, F. (2021). It’s Time for a Flu Shot. Here’s What you Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/09/07/1033756464/flu-shot-covid-booster
Marsh, T. (2020). Here’s How to Get Discounted (Or Even Free) Flu
Shots This Year. Retrieved from https://www.goodrx.com/blog/heres-how-to-get-discounted-or-even-free-flu-shots-this-year/
Nania, R. (2020). 3 Reasons You’ll Regret Skipping the Flu Shot This Year. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/flu-coronavirus-twindemic.html
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. (n.d.). Influenza and Older Adults. Retrieved from https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/influenza-and-older-adults/.
Providence Body & Mind Team. (2020). Why it’s even more important this year to be prepared for cold and flu season. Retrieved from https://blog.providence.org/blog-2/why-it-s-even-more-important-this-year-to-be-prepared-for-cold-and-flu-season-2