Why getting a flu shot should be at the top of your fall to-do list
As fall approaches and COVID-19 continues to spread, the importance of getting a flu shot couldn’t be higher.
“I want people to begin to think about getting their flu vaccine now,” said Saria Saccocio, MD, Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer at Prisma Health. “It would be catastrophic for many people to have both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, so please start planning. And if you’ve skipped it in years past, I strongly caution you that now is the year to make sure you’re doing everything to keep yourself healthy and safe for the coming months.”
Dr. Saccocio said everyone is at risk for getting COVID-19 this year, which means everyone is at risk for the potential of having COVID-19 and flu at the same time. “Each illness would make the other that much more dangerous and potentially more deadly,” she said.
Those already at risk for complications from the flu alone include:
- Children – Children should be vaccinated for flu at 6 months of age. Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu, thousands are hospitalized, and some children die from it.
- Older adults – If you’re 65 or older, ask for a high-dose vaccine.
- People with chronic conditions – Those with chronic health problems should ALWAYS get vaccinated. It’s shown to be an important tool to help prevent complications associated with diabetes, heart and lung diseases.
- Pregnant women – Vaccination reduces risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women.
Here’s what else you need to know about flu prevention:
- Don’t wait to be vaccinated. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, in most years, flu activity peaks between December and February. Get vaccinated early to help ensure maximum effectiveness throughout the entire flu season.
- Shots cannot give you the flu. They can make the injection site sore, and you may feel achy. If you do have pain in your arm after the injection, consider taking an anti-inflammatory medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Take care of yourself. In addition to getting the flu vaccination, take good care of yourself by having good health habits such as a healthy diet and exercise. Cover your mouth with your arm when you cough or sneeze. Frequently wash your hands with soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfect surfaces. The flu virus can survive up to 48 hours on surfaces, so wipe down surfaces in your home with disinfectant.
If you do experience flu symptoms, immediately call your provider to see if antiviral drugs are appropriate for you. They can lessen flu symptoms and duration, but the medication will work best when started within 48 hours of an initial flu diagnosis.
Fight the flu
Because of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to prevent the flu. Get your flu shot and learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and others.Learn More