GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – According to medical professionals, October through April are the peak months for flu illnesses.

As the temperature drops outside, most of us will find ourselves spending more time inside as winter approaches. That’s something Dr. Eric Baker, internal medicine physician at Bon Secours St. Francis, told 7NEWS is a driving factor during flu season.

“The flu tends to occur most often in winter months, when people are indoors clustered together, it’s a lot easier to catch the flu when you’re inside during the winter, rather than you’re when you’re outdoors and outside during the summer,” said Dr. Baker.

With COVID-19 still very much in play, you may be wondering how you can spot the difference.

“The illnesses are actually pretty similar,” said Dr. Baker. “Both cause fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, weakness, sore throat, runny nose, cough, difficulty breathing. But the COVID-19 tends to be more severe. And COVID-19 can more often affect the ability to smell or taste.” 

“They’re so similar that the only way to know, for example, if I have the flu or if I have COVID-19, is with a test,” Dr. Baker explained.

According to the National Institute for Health, up to one in five Americans are impacted by the flu each year. Studies show that most people get better within a week, however, for some, the complications can be life-threatening.

“It’s estimated that the flu is responsible for anywhere from maybe 12,000 to 52,000 deaths in the US per flu season,” Dr. Baker said.

As for what to expect this season, doctors said signs point to a “worse than normal season.”

“Sometimes we here in the US will look at Australia’s most recent winter to get an idea of what flu season will be like in our flu season,” explained Dr. Baker. “This most recent flu season in Australia was a particularly bad one. They had about three times the normal levels of flu then they would experience in a ‘normal flu season.’ We’re expecting that this flu season here could be worse than average.”

Medical professionals said there are several ways steps you can take to decrease your chances of exposure.

“The risk of catching it from somebody is most increased if you’re within six feet,” said Dr. Baker. “But sometimes the flu can persist for a little while on a surface. So again, washing hands and avoiding touching your mouth and nose is also important.” 

And, as always, doctors recommend you get your annual flu shot.

If you think you may be infected with the flu, contact your local health provider for assistance.

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