By Dr. Jason Dees, D.O. FAAFP
Chief Medical Officer, Molina Healthcare
As doctors and nurses around the country continue caring for COVID-19 patients, public health experts are advising people to prepare for another respiratory illness: influenza, more commonly known as flu, which impacts us every year. Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself during flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated as early as September since it can take about two weeks for the shot to be fully effective. Amid the pandemic, most doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other locations are taking precautions in order to safely provide vaccines as well as other necessary health care services.
Anyone 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine. Groups who are at higher risk of flu-related complications include adults over 65, toddlers, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and individuals with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, liver disorders and weakened immune systems. Essential workers should also make sure to get vaccinated.
Be mindful of flu vaccine myths, such as the following:
Additional steps you can take to protect your health include:
Frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze
Avoid touching your face with unclean hands, especially your eyes or mouth
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that are regularly touched or have been contaminated
Avoiding contact with people who are sick, and during COVID-19, avoiding close contact with people outside your household
Getting plenty of rest if you are not feeling well and self-quarantine, if possible, out of caution
Consuming a well-balanced diet
Now more than ever, it is crucial to take preventive health measures to keep our communities healthy and reduce the number of flu and COVID-19 hospitalizations, thus reducing the strain on our health care system. For information on the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu, you can visit John Hopkins Medicine or the CDC. Make sure to immediately contact your doctor if you have any severe symptoms or have any concerns about your health.