Cases of Influenza are on the rise after a two year slow-down. While social distancing and mask-wearing due to COVID-19 kept the instances of flu down, the current flu season — roughly October to March — is expected to see a sharp increase in cases as we return to more normal social activities. Remember that flu can be serious and even fatal, especially for the elderly, infants and people who are immunocompromised.
Here are five key tips for staying healthy during flu season, including what to do if you’re not sure if you have COVID-19, the flu, or both — it’s possible!
1. Get the flu vaccine
The flu vaccine provides protection against the most common strains of flu and is available now. You can get the vaccine from your primary care provider (PCP), at public flu clinics, and at many pharmacies, on a walk-in basis. The flu vaccine is typically covered by insurance. If you have children, ask your pediatrician if they should get vaccinated too. Make sure family members, especially the elderly or those with immune compromised heath also receive the vaccine.
Learn more about your flu shot coverage through Tufts Health Plan.
2. Take preventive measures
Many of the best ways to avoid getting or spreading the flu are the same habits you’ve probably been practicing throughout the pandemic to avoid getting COVID-19: Frequent handwashing, avoiding close contact with others who are sick, coughing or sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand, and avoiding touching your face. If you’re wearing a mask to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, you’ll be helping prevent the spread of flu at the same time.
3. If you feel sick, get tested
COVID-19 and influenza have some similar symptoms, including fever, chills, aches, sore throat, and headache. If you have these symptoms, it’s important to get tested to find out which virus you have. Your PCP or an urgent care clinic can provide both COVID-19 and flu tests. If you have the flu, your doctor may be able to prescribe an antiviral drug to help with your symptoms. If you have COVID-19, you should follow quarantine procedures, and let anyone you’ve had recent close contact with know that you tested positive. The same is true for the flu. Staying home from work and other activities reduces the spread to others, including those who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and the flu.
4. Maintain good health
Good nutrition supports a strong immune system and is important to preventing the flu, as well as shortening the duration of flu if you do become ill. Focus on eating a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Staying hydrated helps the body fight off infection, so drink plenty of fluids – especially water. Also, getting enough sleep is important to a strong immune system as well as overall health.
5. Know where to go for care
If you’re experiencing flu symptoms, your best bet is to contact your PCP, who can evaluate whether any kind of medical treatment is necessary and advise you on ways to minimize your discomfort. They may suggest using telehealth, which allows you to talk to a provider without having to leave your home or risk getting others sick. Most members of Tufts Health Plan commercial plans have access to Telehealth Virtual Care provided by Teladoc®1 where you and your family can connect 24/7 with a board certified provider. Visiting an urgent care clinic is also an option. However, if you are having trouble breathing call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately.
At Tufts Health Plan, we’re committed to helping our members stay healthy and get the quality health care they need all year long. We’re here to help connect you with resources, information, and assistance in finding providers, this flu season and beyond.