A key point: Get your flu shot this year

You hear the message every fall, and if you haven’t previously followed the advice, I implore you to do so this year: Get your flu shot.

With both COVID-19 and influenza circulating, getting the influenza vaccine is more important than ever. It is possible that a person could contract both influenza and COVID, and we simply don’t know yet the effect on the body of a dual diagnosis.

However, we do know that each virus on its own can be fatal.

In addition, the number of patients needing hospitalization increases during flu season, and with hospitals feeling the strain of COVID cases, additional influenza patients could add to the challenges.

Please, get your flu shot.

Influenza is a respiratory virus. It is not a stomach illness, which some people refer to as the flu. The influenza vaccine is a way to prevent getting influenza or, if you do get it, to experience a milder case.

Also, the vaccination will not give you the flu. Any time you are vaccinated, you’re given a dose of what you’re being vaccinated for. The most common side effect is a sore arm. You might have a slight fever or slight body aches, but that is because your body is reacting to the vaccination in a positive way by building up the antibodies in your body to fight off the influenza virus.

Those are normal side effects of many vaccines. It is a good reaction.

Influenza cases are expected to start increasing in October, and we are urging people to get their influenza vaccine as soon as it’s available. Remember, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to build up and offer protection. Everyone 6 months and older, with few exceptions, should get an annual flu vaccine.

In addition to your influenza vaccine, other preventive measures are important. They’re the same measures we’ve been educating about with COVID:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

• Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

We’re hoping that COVID education during the past several months will encourage more people to take the influenza season seriously.

Get your influenza vaccine. They are available in many locations or contact your health care provider today.