The 2022-2023 flu season may be severe as people return to pre-pandemic travel and social mixing levels. After two quiet years during COVID-19, you may feel unsure about how best to manage the risks of a bad flu season. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued clear, simple, and easy-to-follow guidance for keeping yourself and your family safe.
Flu vaccines have come a long way since they were introduced to the public in the 1940s. Each year, they are tweaked based on the flu strains that are most likely to circulate. Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone aged 6 months and above and are available in a few different types:
- Standard flu shots. These are approved for everyone over the age of 6 months, including pregnant people and those with underlying medical conditions.
- Nasal spray vaccines. These are approved for those aged 2 to 49 who are not pregnant and do not have certain underlying health conditions.
- High-dose flu shots. These are both approved and recommended for people aged 65 and over.
Note that flu vaccines may not be appropriate for those with specific severe allergies. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about whether a flu vaccine is right for you.
Also, consider getting a COVID-19 booster. Bivalent booster shots are now available that protect against the widely circulating Omicron variant as well as the original form of the illness. These boosters are available at pharmacies, clinics, and even big box stores across the country. They are approved for those ages 12 and older who have already received their original two-dose vaccine series. Getting boosted will help prevent a “twindemic” in which both flu and COVID-19 rates skyrocket, putting strain on hospital systems.
Learn more about the COVID-19 booster availability here.
The biggest reason the past couple of flu seasons were quiet is that most people were taking precautions against COVID-19. These simple measures also work well to reduce transmission of the flu. Avoid close contact with other people, wash or sanitize your hands frequently, and stay home when you’re sick. Also, consider masking, especially when you are in crowded situations.
Consider using antiviral medications.
If you do come down with the flu, antiviral medications can help shorten your illness and reduce your risk of complications or severe disease. This is especially important for older adults and those who are at high risk due to underlying medical conditions, but treatments are not limited to these populations. Talk to your doctor about whether an antiviral is right for you.
You’ll want to act quickly, as these medications have the most benefits when started within two days of symptom onset. However, they may still have some benefits when started a bit later. And remember, flu symptoms can look very similar to COVID-19 symptoms, and it’s even possible to have both illnesses at the same time. It’s well worth being tested for both as soon as you develop respiratory symptoms to start the appropriate treatment protocols immediately.