Now that flu season is upon us, we are once again being reminded that getting a flu vaccine is important – especially so this year because of the coronavirus.
What role does the coronavirus play in all of this? Sadly, as we’ve learned, the healthcare system can easily become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. The flu also sends people to the hospital. The numbers vary from year to year, but it’s estimated that almost 500,000 people were hospitalized in the 2018-2019 flu season (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Adding those hospitalizations to the unpredictable surges of COVID-19 patients is what hospitals desperately want to avoid. They’re referring to it as a potential “twindemic.”
High-Risk Groups For Getting the Flu
- People age 65 and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease)
- Women who are pregnant
This group also includes children younger than 5 years, but especially those younger than 2 years old, says the CDC.
Similarities Between Flu and COVID-19 Symptoms
Adding to the concerns about a possible “twindemic” are the fact that the flu and COVID-19 have some symptoms in common.
The Flu and COVID-19 Common Symptoms
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
A notable difference between the two is that people with COVID-19 often report a new loss in their ability to smell or taste.
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, but people who are in the above high-risk groups should first ask their doctor when to get vaccinated and which type (e.g., shot, high-dosage shot or nasal spray) is best.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Ask your doctor about the timing and type of flu vaccine that’s best for you.