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Flu Symptoms and When To Get Your Shot

flu symptoms

Months before the peak of flu season, it's important to protect yourself by getting a flu shot. That step is more important than ever because it can be hard to differentiate the flu from COVID-19.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. In Connecticut, flu cases start to appear as early as October and continue through March or April. Older people, young children, pregnant people and those with certain chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, obesity or diabetes are at increased risk for complications.

Flu Symptoms

Common flu symptoms include fever, sore throat, dry cough, headache and body aches. COVID-19 symptoms can also include fever, cough and aches. Other common COVID-19 symptoms can include diarrhea and vomiting. 

“What we’re worried about specifically is as we start to see not only the flu, but other respiratory infections coming in to our community, it will be very difficult for clinicians to differentiate between those who have COVID and those who have the flu,” said Richard Martinello, MD, Medical Director of Infection Prevention.

If you suspect you have any symptoms related to the flu or COVID-19, you should contact your doctor right away for testing. There are medications available to treat the flu and COVID-19.

Flu Misconceptions

Dr. Martinello said the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get your yearly flu shot. It’s safe and recommended for everyone 6 months or older, including pregnant people, unless you’re known to have a severe allergy to the flu shot.

“You cannot get the flu from the flu shot,” Dr. Martinello said. “There is no live virus in the flu shot. It’s really just proteins from the virus itself that are in the shot so it’s impossible to get flu from the flu shot.”

Dr. Martinello recommends everyone get their shot before the flu becomes widespread. Getting that shot every year can help protect at risk populations, like the elderly.

Another common misconception is that the flu is just as dangerous as COVID-19. While the flu has a substantial impact on our country each year, COVID-19 has a higher rate of death associated with it. Because influenza and COVID-19 are both spread through respiratory droplets, hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing will help protect against both illnesses.