This promises to be a very different holiday season for many families. With the coronavirus as an uninvited guest this year, large gatherings are out, and masks and social distancing are in. But healthcare professionals worry that with our collective focus on COVID-19, we’re forgetting about the flu virus, whose seasonal spread is already well underway here in Florida.
The good news is that a flu vaccine is widely available – here and now – and getting your annual flu shot is easier than it’s ever been.
“With Thanksgiving a week or so away and the holidays just around the corner, a lot of people may be getting together and celebrating with their families, friends and colleagues,” says Katie Acquino, D.O. , medical director at Baptist Health Urgent Care in West Boca Raton. “Although we don’t yet have a coronavirus vaccine, we do have a flu vaccine that’s readily available. And this is a year that you don’t want to skip your flu shot.”
Symptoms of the flu are largely similar to those of COVID-19, according to Dr. Acquino. Both can make you feel miserable in lots of different ways, with fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, body aches, malaise and fatigue. “It’s even possible for someone to have both at the same time,” she says. “If your symptoms also include loss of sense of smell and taste, headaches or gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, that may indicate a COVID-19 infection.”
The twin threats of COVID-19 and the flu promise to make this year’s holiday season more challenging and stressful than usual. Dr. Acquino notes that elevated stress – not uncommon around the holidays – can compromise our immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to infection from the flu, COVID-19 or other types of illness.
In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). As you make your plans for the holidays, Dr. Acquino advises following CDC guidelines on how to celebrate safely.
“If you want to protect yourself from the flu during the holiday season, the time to get your flu shot is now,” says Dr. Acquino. “It takes a couple of weeks after vaccination for your body to develop the antibodies that can protect you from infection, so don’t delay,” she says.
To get your free Flu Shot, schedule an appointment today at your local Baptist Health Urgent Care or Urgent Care Express location.