How to Prepare Early for Flu Season During COVID-19
Stay Ahead of the Curve to Help Flatten the Curve
When fall rolls around every year, it brings the dreaded flu season with it. Typically, the CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine by the end of October. In years past, this has been the time that flu prevention enters people’s minds and they might start taking steps to build up their immune system. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for flu season has become even more crucial.
Our understanding of COVID-19 is still evolving, but based on the existing data and our knowledge of the virus, those with stronger immune systems will be less likely to develop serious complications. The immune system becomes compromised when the body is responding to a virus like influenza. An excess of T cells, which is the main component of the adaptive immune system, must be produced in order to fight the virus. This process can lead to respiratory bacterial infections, which can also make COVID-19 more challenging.
Healthcare providers are beginning to administer flu vaccinations early and are ordering extra shots and tests for both COVID-19 and the flu. At home, we can all take extra steps to protect ourselves from both the flu and COVID-19. Some of the ways we can fight against both viruses include:
- Being proactive about our immune health
When it comes to fighting off both influenza and COVID-19, a strong, healthy immune system will be your best defense. The most important step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong is eating a well-balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables. You can also build up your immunity by avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol or drinking only in moderation, and getting adequate sleep. For most people, this means between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Minimizing stress is another great way to build your immune health. Regular exercise not only improves your immune system, it also improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, controls body weight, and helps your body fight against other diseases. All of these steps will prove to be helpful in creating the body you need to fight these viruses.
- Stocking up on health supplies now
If you do come down with COVID-19 or influenza, it will be essential to stay away from other people. For this reason, it might be helpful to stock up on the health supplies you need ahead of time. Basic essentials like tissues, hand sanitizers, anti-bacterial soaps, and wipes are great places to start. Making sure you have enough food in the house to sustain you for a while is also a helpful plan of action, but there is no need to go overboard. It might be useful to get a plan in place for who will run essential errands like grocery trips if you were to get sick.
- Getting a flu vaccine
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but getting your yearly flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine tends to vary from season to season, but in the past, the flu vaccine has prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza cases, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths. Because the risks of the flu vaccine tend to be minimal and can include minor side effects like soreness, redness, swelling, headache, fever, nausea, and fatigue, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks for most people.
- Disinfecting your surroundings
When it comes to your surroundings, cleaning household surfaces with products that contain bleach, alcohol, pine oil, sodium hypochlorite, citric acid, hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium compounds are going to be your best bet for eliminating as many germs as possible. Look for EPA labels that specify whether the product meets the required standards.
When we refer to your surroundings, we also mean your own body. This includes keeping your hands clean by washing for at least 20 seconds with antibacterial soap and keeping your hands away from your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to help prevent any germs that you might have been exposed to from making their way into your system.
- Being considerate of others
Just like any time of struggle or hardship, the best way for us to get through this is by working together. If you feel sick, it is important that you don’t expose yourself to others. Even minor symptoms could point to a larger issue like COVID-19, which is a tricky virus that can cause drastic complications in others even if they do not occur in yourself. When you interact with others, it is important to wear a mask even if they encourage you not to. By doing so, you are looking out for their own good.
Another helpful tip if you are going to socialize is to be outside when possible. Research is suggesting that outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor ones. One study even showed that the chances of transmitting the virus are nearly 20 times higher when indoors as compared to being outdoors. An extra step that you can take is to limit in-person contact with people who might be at high risk, including the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. It does not take a lot of effort to be considerate during this time, but the smallest efforts can go a long way, and might even save lives.
Flu and COVID-19 Testing
If you find yourself experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, muscle aches, congestion, a runny nose, headaches, and/or fatigue, the first step should be determining whether you have the flu or COVID-19. Advance ER in Dallas offers testing for both.
For COVID-19 testing, we offer a Drive-Up assistance program that allows you to stay in your vehicle while we perform the testing. Our center is staying informed of the latest information regarding COVID-19, and we are taking proper steps to operate safely under CDC guidelines. We are also working with Dallas County Health & Human Services to coordinate testing and treatment with proper protocol.
As far as flu testing, our protocol has not changed substantially from previous years. If we test you for the flu and you are positive, you might be given prescription drugs called antivirals to help treat it. These are especially helpful if taken within 48 hours of developing symptoms. While antibiotics do not treat the flu directly, they can be prescribed to treat a secondary bacterial infection. No matter what your sickness may be, our team of emergency medical experts is equipped to help you identify it and provide the help you need.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency and you are in the Dallas area, please visit one of our emergency centers, or dial 911 now. You can also call us at (214) 494-8222 to learn more about how we can help you with your emergency needs.