Flu Shot and COVID-19 FAQ: Protecting Yourself From the Flu is More Important Than Ever
This year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting your health is more important than ever. While we’re still learning about COVID-19, we know there is a simple, safe and effective way to protect yourself from the flu: getting the flu shot. Get answers to common questions about the flu shot and COVID-19 in this FAQ.
Are flu shots important during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In the 2019 flu season, about 35.5 million people got sick with the flu, and an estimated 34,200 people died from it. The flu can be a dangerous illness, even for healthy people. But the simple action of getting a flu shot can help you prevent the flu altogether and reduce the severity of your flu symptoms if you do get sick.
During COVID-19, protecting yourself from the flu is especially important. According to the CDC, it is possible to have both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. Having both illnesses together could take a heavy toll on your immune system and may lead to severe symptoms.
While the flu shot is important for almost everyone 6 months of age and older, it is especially important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from the flu. People at high risk for complications include those who are 65+ years of age and people living with chronic health conditions.
Can the flu shot prevent COVID-19?
While the flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19, it will decrease your risk of severe illness from the flu and decrease your risk of hospitalization. In addition to helping you stay well, protecting yourself from the flu will also help health care workers in your community preserve protective equipment and other resources as they care for COVID-19 patients this flu season.
When should I get a flu shot this year?
If you’ve got time on your calendar, right now is the best time to get the flu shot! Get your flu shot while it’s top of mind and aim to get it before the end of October. Flu season usually begins in October and peaks in January or February. While we don’t know when this year’s flu season will peak, getting vaccinated now will help you stay protected through the spring.
Are there side effects of the flu shot? Will it give you the flu?
The flu shot does not contain a live flu virus and it will not give you the flu. You may experience some discomfort for a few seconds while the shot is being given, but many people experience no other side effects. If you do experience side effects, they are usually mild and clear up within a few days. Common side effects include:
- Soreness, redness, swelling or small amounts of bruising where the shot was given.
- A mild fever.
- Body and muscle aches.
- Fatigue, or feeling tired.
More severe side effects may occur if you have an allergy to a vaccine ingredient. Learn more about who should get a flu vaccine here, and talk to your health care provider about what’s right for you.
What else can I do to prevent the flu?
The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from the flu, but there are additional steps you can take to stay well. The same measures that help protect us from COVID-19 can also help protect us from the flu virus. This flu season, remember to:
- Wash your hands often. Use soap and water to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Wear a mask. Like COVID-19, the flu virus can spread through respiratory droplets in the air. A mask may help protect you from breathing in droplets that are carrying the flu. If you’re sick with the flu, wearing a mask may help prevent the virus from spreading to others.
- Wait 6 feet apart. The flu virus can spread through coughing, sneezing and close contact with someone who is sick with flu illness. Keeping distance between yourself and others can help reduce your exposure to both the flu and COVID-19.
Ready to schedule your flu shot? Call your primary care provider’s office to make an appointment.
>> Find a primary care provider.
About the Author
Catherine Metheney, MD, is a board certified family medicine practitioner with Cone Health Primary Care & Sports Medicine at MedCenter Kernersville.