This article appeared in WLNS 6 News. Read more here.
Flu season typically lasts from mid-fall to mid-spring but can vary depending on the virus. Due to the pandemic, the U.S. has seen lower-than-normal flu cases in recent years. However, as we transition into a post-pandemic phase with lessened restrictions, experts are expecting to see a rise again this year.
“The healthcare world is holding its breath this year because our immune systems haven’t been as exposed to the flu in several years due to COVID-19 measures,” said Emily Smith, DO, a family physician at McLaren Greater Lansing Primary Care — Okemos. “Getting your flu vaccine starting in September and before the end of October is recommended to prepare for the peak of flu season. However, receiving the vaccine after October can still provide you with protection during this period.”
For this upcoming flu season, Dr. Smith recommends getting both the COVID-19 and the flu vaccines in order to protect yourself, your family, and others in your community. All individuals 6 months and older are eligible for the flu vaccine. New this year is a high-dose flu vaccine suggested for adults age 65 and older. It may not be available at all locations, so be sure to check before scheduling an appointment. The initial COVID-19 series is available to everyone 6 months of age and older, with the updated booster available two months after completion of the initial series.
“The flu vaccine is not intended to stop you from getting ill. The vaccine’s job is to stop you from getting very ill from the infection,” said Dr. Smith. “If you feel slightly under the weather after getting your vaccine, it could be a good indicator that your body is responding to the vaccine and making antibodies.”
In addition to getting the vaccines to help stop the spread of germs, if you are feeling ill, stay home, wear a mask indoors while in a public setting, cover your coughs, and wash your hands often with proper hand-washing techniques. It is also important to keep a healthy, well-balanced diet and to stay hydrated year-round. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends drinking plenty of liquids at the first sign of flu as people who are sick need to drink extra fluids to keep them from getting dehydrated.
“Differentiating between COVID-19 and the flu could be tricky, because COVID-19 has symptoms that vary so much. If you have respiratory symptoms like cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, or fever, it is wise to be tested for both flu and COVID-19,” said Dr. Smith. “Ultimately, I recommend calling your family doctor with any questions you may have and ask them about what symptom management medications could be used based on your personal health history.”