Influenza, or flu, is a common, contagious respiratory virus that can cause serious illness. For the very young and the elderly, it can sometimes be fatal. Flu season typically runs from October through April, when people are more likely to be indoors and in close contact.
This year, flu season poses a greater risk than normal because the virus that causes COVID-19 is also more likely to spread during the winter months, just like flu. That is why getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever. Even people who only experience mild flu symptoms each year should get the flu shot, for several important reasons:
- It can protect you from getting infected with the flu.
- It can keep you from passing the flu on to someone who is greatly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.
- It can help make your illness less severe if you do get sick with the flu.
- It is likely the number of COVID-19 cases will increase during flu season.
- Even mild flu may make you more susceptible to becoming infected with COVID-19.
- Being infected with COVID-19 at the same time as the flu may negatively impact your recovery.
Flu and COVID-19 Symptoms
The symptoms of these two viruses are nearly identical. Flu symptoms start suddenly. They appear about 1 to 4 days after a person is exposed to the flu. COVID-19 can initially feel like the flu, although some people experience no symptoms at all. Like flu, common COVID-19 symptoms are fever and cough. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
The symptoms in the following list can occur with both viruses, except where otherwise noted:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting or diarrhea. (With flu, this is more common in children.)
- New loss of taste or smell (COVID-19 only)
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (COVID-19 only)
The best way to know which virus you have is to be tested for them. There is still much the medical community does not yet know about the new coronavirus, so this list does not include all possible symptoms. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
Being vaccinated against flu is simple, yet less than half of Americans get it done. This year, during a pandemic, skipping the flu shot is not worth the risk to yourself and your community.
Seasonal flu shots can protect against three or four strains of influenza. The flu shot does not contain a live virus, so it cannot give you the flu. Once the vaccine is received, it takes two weeks for it to be fully effective, so it is important to continue practicing safe hygiene.
To protect yourself and others from flu and COVID-19, frequently wash your hands thoroughly with soap, wear a mask, avoid close contact with sick people, and practice social distancing.
The majority of people have no problem with the flu shot, with the rare exception of those who have medical conditions that may risk an adverse reaction, such as a severe or life-threatening allergy to the vaccine. It is not appropriate to give the flu shot to children younger than 6 months of age. For more information on who should and should not receive a flu vaccine shot or nasal spray, please visit the CDC website on the topic here. Talk with your medical provider to make sure the flu vaccine is right for you.
Flu vaccines are available in many locations, or will be available soon, including:
- Primary care providers
- Health clinics
- Local health departments
- College health centers
- Urgent care clinics
The flu vaccine is currently available at Urgent Care - Adirondack as well as Malta Med Emergent Care. Please call to inquire about the flu vaccine before coming in.
For additional questions and answers about the seasonal flu shot, talk with your primary care provider. You can also visit this page about flu and this one about COVID-19 on the NYS Department of Health website.