Flu season is back, but this season is expected to look different because of COVID-19. To help keep our communities safe, Saria Saccocio, MD, Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer at Prisma Health, shares some important flu tips and reminders.
What is the flu?
Flu is a respiratory virus and presents with similar symptoms compared to COVID-19. “That’s why we can’t tell the difference between the two,” said Dr. Saccocio. “If you have symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat or muscle aches, make sure you stay at home and keep yourself isolated.”
The flu is also transmitted the same way that COVID-19 is transmitted, from respiratory droplets. That’s why it’s important to maintain social distancing measures, wear masks and wash hands frequently.
Why is the flu shot especially important this year?
Everyone is at risk for COVID-19 this year, which means everyone is at risk for having COVID-19 and the flu. Dr. Saccocio warned that having both illnesses at the same time could be catastrophic for some patients.
Can you get the flu from the flu shot?
No. The vaccine is inactivated which means it does not have a live virus and there is no way to get the flu. Some people may be a little achy afterwards, but that shows your immune system is building up the response to protect you from the flu.
What if I have symptoms of the flu?
“In the past we’ve said stay home and take care of yourself,” said Dr. Saccocio. “However, because we can’t tell the difference between the flu or COVID-19, it’s important to consider being tested so you know if you have COVID-19 or the flu. Your primary care provider can help guide you in this care.”
Should I take medicine for the flu?
Dr. Saccocio recommends using Tylenol or ibuprofen to reduce fever. There’s also an antiviral medication called Tamiflu and a couple of others that may be appropriate. Contact your primary care provider or use a virtual care option for next steps. “We have a flu season every year, so we’re prepared to manage it,” said Dr. Saccocio. “We know the steps to help stop the spread.”