It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., and now we find ourselves kicking off the cold and flu season. It’s common for medical institutions and medical providers to begin their efforts in encouraging patients to get their influenza vaccination starting in late fall, and finishing later in the spring. Now, of course, staying healthy and keeping yourself out of the hospital is on the top of everyone’s list! Of course, the respiratory effects that COVID-19 has on a patient in conjunction with flu symptoms could mean a long and potentially scary battle to full recovery if someone were to come down with both viruses. There are several factors to consider when it comes to your preventative health during a pandemic. Getting the flu vaccine during COVID-19 can mean the difference between ending up in the hospital with more severe symptoms, and keeping you and your loved ones safe during these difficult times.

Getting the Flu Vaccine During COVID-19 

While there is less data to observe in regards to confirmed cases where a patient has contracted both COVID-19 and this year’s influenza virus, medical professionals are on the same page: this year, it’s more important than ever to get the influenza vaccine. 

It’s not just about not catching influenza this year. Because COVID-19 wreaks such havoc on a patient’s respiratory system, contracting influenza on top of a COVID-19 infection can mean a severe escalation of the patient’s symptoms. On its own, influenza accounted for approximately 400,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths during the 2019-2020 flu season.  Those numbers are staggering if one takes into consideration that as of December 2020, there were 108,000 patients currently hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection

Part of the growing and persistent crisis healthcare workers are faced with due to the pandemic is the overwhelming number of patients that are filling up hospitals around the country. Hospital beds are becoming more scarce, and the impact the pandemic is having on the physical and mental health of our healthcare workers. This means in part, that catching the flu this year can lead to symptoms that require a patient to be hospitalized, taking up a much-needed place in a hospital where COVID patients need life-saving care. 

Prevention is always the best line of defense. Staying out of hospitals during our current world health climate can help keep our medical providers safe, and keep our hospitals from becoming even more overwhelmed. 

The Combined Effects of 2 Viral Infections – What it Can Mean For Your Health

While our heroes the healthcare workers forge on through the pandemic, it’s important to evaluate the impact that contracting the flu might have in the event that you also contract COVID-19. 

Some data suggests that getting your shot this year might actually help your body in staving off COVID-19. By getting your influenza vaccine, your body’s immune system may kick into a system wide “trained immune” response. In a recent study not yet peer-reviewed, researchers observed that the immune responses that create antibodies to fight influenza,actually may help patients ward off other viral infections. While the exact cause or mechanisms responsible for this line of defense are still unknown, it implies an added benefit to getting the influenza vaccine as it applies to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study analyzed healthcare workers from the researcher’s hospital and found that colleagues who got the 2019 influenza vaccine were 39% less likely to test positive for COVID-19 as of June 2020. 

We spoke to the effects COVID-19 has on the brain, and while there is still much unknown about the long-lasting effects of an infection, recovery from severe symptoms can be life-altering. While the goal for everyone should be to avoid infections of both COVID-19 and the flu, having both at the same time may be too much for one body to fight successfully. 

The Flu Vaccine Controversy 

Medical professionals are urging everyone to prepare and prevent further infections by getting their flu vaccine this year. Even with the above-mentioned statistics, fewer than half the U.S. population get their flu vaccine every year. This number is too low, especially when considering that the flu vaccine lowers the risk of contracting the virus in general populations by 40-60%.

While some people simply don’t want to get their flu shot, scientists and medical professionals agree that this year, it’s time. It is recommended that patients who think they have a COVID-19 infection, or are recovering from one, hold off on getting the flu vaccine due to the hardships and attacks on their already fragile immune system. If symptoms of your infection are not severe, and do not require hospitalization, it’s best to reach out to your medical provider and schedule a virtual meeting to assess your treatment. 

Symptoms of both infections can be similar, so in the event you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please call your doctor’s office to seek treatment. 

Symptoms the Flu and COVID-19 have in common:

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue

Additional COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Coughs are dry and more severe
  • The onset of COVID symptoms typically take closer to 5 days from infection to present
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Shaking accompanied by chills
  • Loss of smell and taste

Getting the flu vaccine during COVID-19 can be pivotal in preventing severe health complications for yourself, but can also help alleviate some of the burden the pandemic combined with flu season has on our healthcare system. It’s best to confer with your doctor or medical professional if you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms of either viral infection. 

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