A Flu Shot Is Your Best Protection Against Seasonal Flu

Even as we remain in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, flu season is fast approaching. This period, which typically occurs between November and March, means a significantly increased risk of infection by the flu virus. Experts strongly recommend you get a flu shot in preparation, potentially saving yourself a lot of trouble down the road.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), September and October are good times to get vaccinated against the flu. But there are some considerations about who should get the vaccine and when:

  • Adults 65 and older should get vaccinated as early as possible. Check with your provider to see when the vaccine becomes available. AltaMed will begin distributing flu shots in late August. 
  • Children can get vaccinated as soon as it becomes available. Some children need two doses which is determined by your pediatrician or provider.
  • People in their third trimester of pregnancy should also get vaccinated early to protect their infants.
woman being injected

Why Get Vaccinated?

The flu can be serious, leading to hospitalization and even death. It affects millions of people every year, and the symptoms can range widely from a few days of feeling poorly and missing work to serious illness.

The flu can also lead to complications such as:

  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections

It can also make chronic conditions like asthma, congestive heart failure, and diabetes, worse. Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent this.

family cooking

Not Just for You

You may not have any of these conditions. You may be the picture of health. The flu, however, is highly contagious.

Most experts believe flu viruses spread by tiny droplets that are created when people infected with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of nearby people. It’s less common for it to be transmitted from touching the surfaces where those droplets land.

So, should you get infected with the flu, you are taking it home to everyone who lives with you. That includes children, grandchildren, grandparents, siblings, etc. Some people, like the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, are more susceptible than others.

It is still possible to get sick from the flu despite getting your shot. However, the severity of the sickness can be lessened from being vaccinated.

Child With a Doctor

This Year’s Vaccine

This year’s shot is expected to offer protection against at least four of the influenza viruses that will be circulating this flu season. While it is possible to be infected by a different strain, it is still your best chance of avoiding serious complications from infection.

A flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months old or older. With COVID-19 still circulating, preventing the flu will help keep your immune system from being compromised which — in combination with the COVID vaccine — can keep you from contracting coronavirus as well.

Get Your Free Shots at AltaMed

Get vaccinated today against the flu virus at your nearest AltaMed medical center to protect yourself and your family. To schedule a flu shot, please call (888) 499-9303. See hours and locations for clinics near you.

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Cold vs Flu

COVID-19, Flu, Allergies or a Cold? A Helpful Guide to Knowing the Difference

In Southern California, flu season seems to last longer and longer each year. Thanks to drier winters and less rain, allergy season starts earlier every year. And now, our nation is justifiably worried about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus.

If you’ve got a sniffly nose, a sore throat, and a fever, you may not be 100% sure what you have. We’re here with information that will hopefully put your worries at ease, and help you determine what kind of care you need.

Graphic Representation of Covid

COVID-19 vs. the Flu (influenza)

When we started to learn about COVID-19, many people compared it to influenza, most commonly known as the flu, in terms of symptoms and how it spreads. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses, but they’re caused by entirely different viruses.

Both illnesses cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, body aches, fatigue, and even vomiting or diarrhea. Symptoms can be mild or severe and turn into pneumonia. Both can be fatal.

It may be possible for a sick person to have symptoms so mild, they don’t realize they have the disease, and so they may walk around spreading the virus to healthy people.

Both can be spread from person to person from the droplets that come from sneezing, coughing or even talking.

Vaccinations are highly effective at preventing the flu and COVID-19. That’s why we strongly recommend everyone in your family get their shots every year. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. It is free and available for everyone age twelve and older. If you have already received your COVID-19 vaccination, check with your physician or primary care provider about a potential booster shot. The Center for Disease Control is currently recommending a booster vaccination for moderate to severely immunosuppressed individuals.

Coronavirus vs. Allergies

Allergy symptoms are usually quite different from COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike COVID-19, which is a virus, allergies are your immune system’s response to a foreign substance. Allergy symptoms include itchy or runny nose, rashes or itchy skin, and watery eyes. In extreme cases of anaphylactic shock, your air passage shuts down, and it rapidly becomes difficult to breathe. Difficulty breathing is also a symptom of COVID-19, but with allergies, the onset is almost immediately after encountering a specific trigger.

Allergies aren’t contagious like a COVID-19, cold or flu, so there’s no chance of spreading it from one person to the next. Allergies do have a genetic component, which is why it may seem like other people in your family have them at the same time you do. Unless you do allergy testing and shots, your best method for preventing allergic reactions is to keep an allergy diary and then stay away from your triggers.

You can usually treat allergy symptoms with common, over-the-counter remedies, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and medicated lotions to help relieve itchy rashes and hives.

COVID-19 vs. the Common Cold

Mild cases of COVID-19 may be mistaken for a cold. Because many of the symptoms are the same, it can be tough to tell the difference. Experts say that if your first symptoms included a sore throat and runny nose, it’s likely just a cold. A fever could be a sign that it’s something more than a cold.

The common cold is famously difficult to prevent. But following the same protocol for COVID-19 should help protect you.

  • Follow local and state safety guidelines.
  • Wear a face mask when indoors or in crowds to protect yourself and others.
  • Maintain hand hygiene — use hand sanitizer to clean hands frequently, and wash hands for 20 seconds at a time. 
  • Practice physical distancing — stay six feet apart from others whether inside or outside. 
  • Wipe down any surfaces you touch.

There’s not much you can do for a cold. Time-tested advice includes getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, using a humidifier, and taking age-appropriate over-the-counter remedies.

Woman with Sore Throat

When Should I Go to the Doctor?

First off, the good news is that about 80% of COVID-19 cases resolve quickly on their own when the person stays home, gets rest, and treats the symptoms.

Unless your symptoms get dramatically worse or you feel short of breath, you may not need to seek treatment (though it's OK to call your doctor and ask). AltaMed is advising our patients to treat mild symptoms just like you would treat a cold by staying home, taking over-the-counter cold treatments like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or Nyquil. Avoid other people until your symptoms go away for at least 72 hours without having to take these medications.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please confirm with your doctor the timing of when you are no longer contagious.

To learn more about COVID-19 precautions, treatments, and news, bookmark our FAQ page.

Putting a Bandage Post Vaccination

Don’t Forget Immunizations Before Going Back to School

As another school year begins, the world still feels anything but normal. Coronavirus cases are expected to surge once again this fall, leading to a greater risk of infection – including for kids in classrooms.

Vaccine boosters protect children from a variety of serious diseases, not just COVID-19. So before back-to-school shopping and first day pictures, make sure your family has the right protection to start the year safely.

Girl Getting Vaccinated

Stick to the Schedule

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a recommended vaccination schedule for newborns. After all, children are most vulnerable in the first year of their life. But going to school means they’ll need some boosters for things like measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), varicella (VAR), and an annual flu shot.

Other important vaccines include tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap), human papillomavirus (HPV), and the meningococcal shot.

Not Over Yet

COVID-19 is still with us. While we hoped to be through with the virus that causes COVID-19, eagerness to return to “normal,” new variations, and reluctance to get vaccinated have kept the virus around longer than we would like.

Unlike the start of the school year last August, vaccines have been approved for children as young as 6 months. There is a three-dose primary series of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years old and a two-dose primary series of Moderna. Children 5 to 17 years old can get a two-dose primary series of both Pfizer and Moderna. The J&J/Janssen has not been approved for children by the FDA.

Because the risk remains high in our area, it is important that kids have good habits to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That means reinforcing daily activities like:

  • Wearing a mask over the nose and mouth when around people
  • Washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoiding close contact with others, especially those who are sick
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of an arm
Kids Boarding to a School Bus

The New Routine

Please make sure your child’s school or care facility has your most current contact information in case of an emergency.

You should also:

  • Check children for signs of illness every day, especially a fever over 100.4, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, or body aches.
  • Be aware of whom children interact with - in case someone tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Learn whom to contact at the school if your child has been exposed.
  • Stay prepared by ordering free COVID-19 testing kits from the federal government. Families can place up to three orders for a maximum of sixteen tests.
  • Review and practice proper hand-washing techniques at home and explain why they’re important.
  • Develop daily routines of what to pack for school (sanitizer, extra masks, a water bottle) and what to do when they get home (washing hands and masks immediately).

After school, you’ll also want to ask questions that go deeper than, “How was your day?” Ask if everyone was in class and wearing their masks, including teachers and staff, and if anyone talked to them about staying safe and practicing good habits. Find out if anyone coughed a lot or had to leave the classroom or school. It’s important to be aware of what is happening in their environment at school because it could affect your environment at home.

Coping with Change

AltaMed is available to help you with resources for dealing with COVID-19, including free vaccines. We also provide counseling services to help navigate the stress children may be coping with as they return to school.

Learn how to get started with AltaMed or call us at(888) 499-9303.

For more information about the vaccine or testing, please visit AltaMed.orgor call our vaccine hotline at (888) 909-5232.

A Flu Shot Is Your Best Protection Against Seasonal Flu