Flu prevention and treatment during coronavirus pandemic

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA ) – Bon Secours Family Medical Physician Dr. Andrea Smith said before testing, influenza and COVID-19 are often very difficult to tell apart.

“Both can have a high fever, cough, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,” she said, and advised anyone experiencing those symptoms to first call a doctor for a diagnosis.

Diagnosing a person with the flu looks different this season amidst the spread of COVID-19, she said.

“You may have to go to a special clinic where they’re only seeing sick patients rather than your regular doctor’s office. They’ll probably test you for the flu. That test comes back in about 10 to 15 minutes and if that’s negative, they’re probably going to test you for COVID,” she said.

To avoid overcrowding clinics, she recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months should get the flu vaccine, preferably before October. The exception, she said, is those with an egg allergy, since some flu vaccines may contain traces of egg.

“If you have health insurance, the flu vaccine is almost always 100 percent covered,” she said. “Some pharmacies and grocery stores will even give you a gift card if you get it there.”

A common worry she encounters with patients is the concern that the flu shot can lead to flu infection, which she said is a myth and is untrue.

“The vaccine doesn’t have the whole flu virus in it, so its not going to infect you with the flu,” she said. “It does take 2 weeks to start working, so if you get sick right away it might be that you came in contact with the flu virus when you were out running your errands or at the doctors office.”

The flu typically puts people out of work or school for a week, Dr. Smith said, and she urged people at risk and those around them to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Anyone less than 2 [years old] is likely to have severe disease, and on the other end of the spectrum, older people who have COPD, asthma, diabetes, and pregnant women.”

For a list of similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu, click here.

To submit a health topic for our series, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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