Why it’s even more important this year to be prepared for cold and flu season

Preventing a cold or the flu is always a health challenge each fall. But with coronavirus (COVID-19) still lingering, it’s even more important to prepare yourself and your family. Boost your immunity to help your body fight off illness and infection, get your flu shot and educate yourself on how to stay healthy. And, just as importantly, know what to do if you get sick.

Read on to learn how you can reduce your risk of getting a cold or the flu, and why it’s even more important during the pandemic to stay informed about the upcoming flu season.

Why the flu shot is even more important this year

As the weather gets colder we’ll start spending more time indoors where it’s easier to spread viruses, like the flu and COVID-19. Since we don’t know how the flu will interact with COVID-19, it’s best to do all you can to keep yourself and loved ones healthy, and do everything possible to reduce the spread of the flu.  

The flu shot is your best defense. Not only does the flu shot dramatically decrease your chance of getting the flu, but it will also make your symptoms less severe.

COVID-19 affects many systems and organs in your body, but especially your lungs. If you develop a cough or respiratory issues from a cold or the flu, this can put extra strain on your breathing and lung capacity.

While flu shots are typically available anytime from September to April, this year, the CDC recommends the flu vaccine be administered by the end of October which ensures coverage for the peak flu season. Children aged 6 months through 8 years who require two doses should start as soon as the vaccine is offered and follow up with a second dose in approximately four weeks. Flu shots are available at many of our primary care and urgent care locations.

How to boost immunity and reduce the risk of getting a cold or the flu

When it comes to staying healthy, it all comes down to the basics: Take care of yourself.

Healthy habits, such as getting plenty of sleep and managing stress, as well as preventive care set up your body for success when confronted with incoming threats – whether it’s the common cold, the flu and even COVID-19. Just a few lifestyle changes can better prepare your body and immune system.

Stay healthy and well:

  • Get your flu vaccine. And encourage those around you to do the same.
  • Sleep. Adults need at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Stay active. Get 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. (This includes walking, running, biking, swimming and even indoor exercises that elevate your heart rate.)
  • Eat healthy. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat less sugar, salt and processed foods.
  • Wash your hands. Turns out, there is a right (and wrong way) to wash your hands. Get the steps from the CDC on how to do it properly.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze. Did you know that germs from a cough and sneeze can travel 6-8 feet? Stop the spread of germs by coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue.
  • Avoid people who are sick. Keep your distance if someone close to you is showing symptoms. Chances are that the steps you take to socially distance during COVID-19 can also help avoid other illnesses.
  • Wear a mask. This year, a mask is recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It can also do double duty by preventing the spread of the flu virus

Be informed. Know the symptoms of cold, flu and COVID-19

This fall, many of us will find ourselves assessing each sneeze and cough. We’ll worry with every tickle in our throats that we’re coming down with COVID-19 or another illness. Knowing the difference between a cold, COVID-19 and the flu can help you have a little peace of mind, and most importantly, know when it’s time to see the doctor.

Although flu and the common cold are caused by different viruses, they have similar symptoms. If you have a cold, you’re likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms may be similar to a cold but are more severe. In addition to fever and chills, flu symptoms can include cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue and body aches. Regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the flu or a cold, if you are feeling unwell, it is recommended you isolate yourself from others to prevent spread of viruses.

Everyone responds to viruses differently, but there are warning signs you can watch for. These may be signs your cold or flu is turning into something more serious. Or, it may even be COVID-19.

  • Persistent fever over 100.4, despite taking medication to reduce the fever
  • New or worsening shortness of breath
  • Confusion or disorientation

You should contact your primary care provider right away if you experience these symptoms, or have a pre-existing condition that puts you at risk of developing complications from any virus.

Because this is the first cold and flu season in the U.S. during the global pandemic, healthcare providers aren’t sure how immune systems will react. Any infection (even a simple cold) or pre-existing condition can reduce your body’s ability to fight infection. This may make you more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Don’t delay getting your flu shot this year

There is nothing more important that you can do this flu season than get your flu shot. The flu shot is safe, and you can be confident that we’re taking all the necessary precautions to limit your exposure to COVID-19 when you come in for your annual flu shot.


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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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