How to Protect Yourself from Flu During Covid-19

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Last year’s flu season was a breeze: only 2,038 reported cases in all of the U.S. compared with 38 million for the 2019-2020 season. Of course that comes with a big but: we were all so hunkered down avoiding the more-contagious Covid-19 that the flu never had a chance.

Flu prevention 2021 is going to be different. With the added protections provided by the Covid vaccines, people are out and about again—some more cautiously than others, of course. That means the flu has a better shot at doing some damage this season. 

And that means it’s time to get our shots. While a strong immune system is important, a healthy immune system alone is not enough to completely protect against Covid-19 or the flu. We need the added protection provided by vaccinations.

Flu season generally runs from October through May here in the northern hemisphere, and people often try to time their vaccinations so they are still effective during the more active later parts of the season. That means putting off the shot until late October or November—but that time has come.

What to Expect From the Upcoming Flu Season

Experts aren’t sure what the flu will be like this year. It’s always a guess as to which strains will be predominant, and because last year’s data was so limited they didn’t have a lot to go on this time around. But the CDC does estimate that getting the shot will reduce your risk of having to see a doctor by 40 to 60%, due to combined resistance to getting the disease and a lessening of its impact if you do manage to get infected.

Covid-19 Remains a Concern

Although the flu can be dangerous enough on its own, the big worry this year is that people might become infected simultaneously by the flu and Covid. This likelihood increases as people continue to resist vaccinations of both types, and as the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines wears off.

How to Protect Yourself Against Flu and Covid

The best defense is to continue following the lessons we’ve learned over the last couple of years. Most importantly, get your Covid vaccine shot if you haven’t gotten it already. Get the Covid booster as soon as you’re eligible. Encourage your friends and family to get these shots as well, as we know these three things to be undeniable:

  1. Covid-19 vaccines greatly reduce your chances of becoming infected by the virus.
  2. If you do manage to get infected, the vaccine can greatly limit the damage caused by the virus.
  3. Getting vaccinated is far less dangerous than getting Covid while unvaccinated. It’s not even close. You can take your chances and hope you won’t get the disease, and you can hope you won’t get a severe case, but there are 750,000+ people in the United States who would wish they could get the vaccine today, if only they could still make wishes.

The same goes for the flu. Vaccination is important and safe, especially for older people. And according to the CDC, there’s no problem with getting the Covid vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time.

What Else Can Be Done to Protect Against Flu and Covid?

By now we’re all familiar with these standard precautions: Keep your distance, wear your masks, and wash your hands. Stay away from people known to be infected. Managing stress levels can even be effective. If you are infected yourself, take all necessary steps to avoid transmitting the disease to others. Be aware of any preexisting conditions that might make you more vulnerable to the effects of either disease, or that might make vaccines less effective for you.

You might also want to avoid the gym during the traditional New Year’s rush and in the months that follow. All those enthusiastic exercisers sweating and panting in a crowded, humid room are a great opportunity for both Covid and the flu. Maybe lay low for a while and work out at home.