COVID-19 during Flu Season: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

By Caitlin McLafferty

In these challenging times, the American Red Cross is never far away. If you need information on emergency preparedness and coronavirus safety, you can find it at RedCross.org; just click on “Get Help.” And since winter is and the pandemic are both in high gear right now, avoiding the flu is paramount. Much of the advice on avoiding coronavirus also applies to keeping seasonal flu out of your house, so please refer to the Red Cross’s flu safety tips and Seasonal Flu Checklist. To protect yourself and your loved ones, here’s more info that bears repeating:

Daily recommendations

  • Mask up: Cover your mouth and nose to avoid unwittingly infecting others. (Remember, people without symptoms can still carry the virus.) For information about masks, check the CDC guidelines here.
  • Keep your distance: When outside of your house, try to stay at least 6 feet away from others, and wear a mask. It’s safest to avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be difficult to maintain that 6-foot buffer zone. These gatherings can infect many people in a short amount of time, so masks are especially important in those situations. For more, see the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
  • Wash your hands: Use soap and water and lather up for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an FDA-approved hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol.
  • Know the symptoms: COVID-19 symptoms can appear two to 14 days after exposure. They include (but are not limited to) fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Consider those at greatest risk: While anyone can become seriously ill with COVID-19, some populations are especially vulnerable. These include people over age 65, nursing home residents. and those with weakened immunity and chronic medical conditions (such as liver, kidney, and disease; lung conditions; diabetes; and cancer). If you’re around people deemed most at risk, take extra precautions.

Travel

Since the entire nation is currently experiencing a coronavirus surge, it’s important to limit your travel to necessary trips. This helps control the spread and keeps your loved ones and community safe. Even though you miss your out-of-town family and friends, you can stay in touch via phone and video calls, texts, and emails.

  • If you have been exposed to anyone who has symptoms or tested positive, do not travel.
  • If you believe you have symptoms yourself or have tested positive, quarantine! Do not travel.
  • If anyone at your travel destination has recently experienced symptoms or tested positive, do not travel.

If you absolutely must travel, the CDC recommends getting tested one to three days before your trip. Make sure you have masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes.

After traveling: Quarantine and wear a mask around everyone, including others in your household who did not travel. Heed the daily recommendations above. The CDC also recommends getting tested three to five days after traveling to see if you were exposed during travel.

Vaccinations

Seasonal flu: Get yourself vaccinated against the flu. This lowers your risk of getting sick and infecting others. In a time when hospitals are trying to serve all patients—including those with needs unrelated to COVID-19—it’s important to prevent hospitalizations from seasonal illnesses such as flu.

Coronavirus: When eligible, get the coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine has the ability to save countless lives. Currently, health care workers and nursing home residents have begun to receive the shot, per recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The next round of recipients will be front-line essential workers, such as educators and public transit employees, as well as people over the age of 75. Next up will be people ages 65 to 75, along with younger people (age 16 and up) who have underlying medical conditions. Eventually, everyone will be eligible; the distribution timeline is not finalized. In order for the vaccine to truly end the pandemic, people have to be willing to take the vaccine.

Prior to receiving the vaccine, check in with your health care provider. If you have a history of allergic reactions, make sure to disclose it prior to receiving the vaccine. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, seek advice from your doctor, since data on the vaccine for pregnant women is limited.

Everyone—with and without allergies—will be monitored for reactions. People with food or medication allergies or a family history of allergies can still receive the vaccine; they’ll be monitored for 30 minutes after getting the shot. Those without allergies or a history of reactions will be monitored for 15 minutes. Providers on site will be prepared to immediately react and treat anyone who shows signs of a reaction. If your known allergy requires that you carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen®), bring it with you; however, health care providers will have necessary resources to treat a reaction.

Primary image description: A square design with two hands washing with soap on a teal-colored background. Above the hands are the words: Spread love. Not germs.

Secondary image description: A horizontal design with an image on the right of a mug, a box of tissues, some loose tissues, and a pair of reading classes. A red block of text on the left reads: Flu Safety Tips | Handle your own belongings. | Wash your hands often with soap and water. | Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you.

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