Health Team

Is it too soon to get your flu shot?

Posted September 4, 2020 5:44 p.m. EDT
Updated September 5, 2020 7:50 a.m. EDT

— The coronavirus crisis will soon intersect with the fast-approaching flu season.

With the quickly-approaching "twindemic," many people are wondering how concerned they should be – and if it's too soon to get a flu shot.

As the fight against COVID continues, doctors say getting your flu shot is more important than ever

“This is the time to get a flu shot even if you never gotten one," said Dr. Amir Barzin, UNC Family Physician.

The message from doctors: Anyone six months or older should get a flu vaccine before late October – especially children, those over 65 and people with underlying conditions. A shot now will protect you through early May.

Dr. Allen Mask, M.D. of the WRAL Health Team said it's very possible to get both COVID-19 and the flu.

“The viruses can infect you, and one does not protect you from the other," he said.

Good news about COVID-19 and the approaching flu season

Social distancing and wearing masks, which limit the spread of the coronavirus, will likely slow the transmission of the flu this year.

Countries in the Southern Hemisphere -- like South Africa, Australia and Argentina -- did not experience as bad of a flu season because of steps those countries took to limit the spread of coronavirus. Winter is just now ending in countries in the Southern Hemisphere, which means the peak of flu season is likely over.

“I feel quite honestly that it is safer now because of all these other measures of trying to keep people from congregating," said Barzin.

Experts say while the effectiveness of the flu shot is 50 to 60 percent, getting vaccinated will decrease your chances of severe illness.

“If your body is debilitated by one respiratory viral illness and you are exposed to another, your outcome is certainly more likely to be poor," said Jessica Dixon, an Infection Prevention Specialist.

Major retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have started vaccinations, with masks and physical distancing mandatory.

Patients are encouraged to make an appointment and fill out paperwork ahead of time.

How do I know if it's the flu or the coronavirus?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both are contagious respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses.

Since some of the flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, the best way to know if you have the flu or the coronavirus is to get tested.

The CDC said on their website that "both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms."

One symptom unique to the coronavirus, according to the CDC, is a change or loss in taste and in smell.

But, the CDC says that is is difficult to diagnose the two diseases based off symptoms alone, and should be done using a test.

For the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus, go to the CDC's website.

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