COVID, Cold & Flu Season
It’s COVID, Cold & Flu Season, that time of year when noses run, bodies ache, and people become overwhelmed with a general feeling of blah. The good news is, there’s help. With some common sense and a few tips, you can get well and stay healthy.
Starting this year, our approach is to place COVID alongside the cold and flu as a seasonal illness. Even though COVID is no longer a national health emergency, it is here to stay. It is the new normal, with variants each year that we will have a deal with. Just like the flu. Still, even though the variants aren’t as threatening as the original strain, it can still be serious for some people, such as those who are older or immunocompromised. Again, just like the flu. If you add the effectiveness of the vaccines and what we learned over the past few years, categorizing it with the cold and flu is a good place for it to be.
While much of this might fall under the category of common sense, it helps to be reminded of what to do. In general, just take it easy. No matter how hard you try to ignore or pretend you don’t have the viruses, they aren’t going away. They have to run their course. If you don’t rest and give your immune system the strength to fight, it just might take even longer.
Get a vaccine
Vaccines are safe and proven effective. They can help prevent you from getting sick, or at least minimize the duration and effects of your illness.
If you don’t feel well, help yourself and protect others by staying home. Curl up under a blanket. Drink some tea. Take a nap. You’ll feel better, and your coworkers and friends will thank you for not sharing your germs.
Keep it clean
Good hygiene is always a good practice, but it’s especially true when you’re sick. Cover your cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often. Clean commonly touches surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Go over the counter
Numerous over-the-counter medicines exist that can help ease the symptoms of COVID, colds, and flus, from fever reducers to nausea medicine to pain relievers to help with body aches. Identify your symptoms and then search the pharmacy shelves.
See your doctor
If your symptoms don’t improve within a week, schedule a visit (or Zoom call) with your doctor, who may prescribe antiviral medicines or something stronger than OTC options. Only you know when you’ve reached that point.
Nobody likes isolating. Nobody likes not being able to socialize. Certainly nobody likes wearing masks. But nobody also likes knowing they were the one who got someone else sick, especially if that person is vulnerable. Think of others. There will always be another party of family gathering.
Where to go for more help
The Northern Kentucky Health Department has four health centers – one in each of the four counties we cover – that serve the underserved population. We offer the flu vaccine to those who are uninsured or have Medicaid. We only offer COVID vaccines to those who are uninsured, primarily because of the cost.
Or, the federal government set up a Bridge Access Program that pays for vaccines for those who are uninsured, which is between 25-30 million adults. CVS and Walgreens offer vaccines through the Bridge Program.
We recommend those with insurance contact their primary care physician or local pharmacy to request the vaccines.
More Flu Facts
Not feeling well? You may not be alone. We track flu activity in the region each year, and have a page with more answers to your questions, including:
Flu Activity in Northern Kentucky
A Guide for Parents
No More Excuses: You Need a Flu Vaccine
People 65 Years and Older Need a Flu Shot
Pregnant? You Need a Flu Shot
What You Should Know About Influenza (Flu) Antiviral Drugs
Take 3 Actions to Fight Flu
Do I have COVID or the flu?
COVID and the flu have similar symptoms, and the only way to tell for sure which one you have is by taking an at-home COVID test. There is no at-home test for flu. Your primary care doctor can also test for both in the office.
Is COVID still dangerous?
COVID is still very much a health threat, particularly among the elderly and people who are immunocompromised, the same way the flu is. People die from the flu each year.
What if I am exposed to someone with COVID?
We are following the Kentucky Department of Health’s 5+5 recommendations, which are to isolate for five days and then wear a mask around others for five days.
Where can I get a COVID test?
A limited supply of free at-home tests can be ordered from covid.gov/tests. Otherwise, at-home tests must now by purchased online, in pharmacies, or at retail stores. (Private health insurance may reimburse the costs of purchasing self-tests.) Community-based testing locations, such as pharmacies, may offer tests.
Are vaccines really safe?
Yes. Flu vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people for more than 50 years, and more than 672 million COVID vaccines have been given out. The standards for quality, safety, and effectiveness are the most intense in history.
Where can I get a vaccine?
We are recommending those with insurance contact their primary care physician or local pharmacy to request both COVID and flu vaccines.
If I get a vaccine, can I still get COVID or the flu?
Maybe. There may be a different variant going around. You may have flu-like symptoms from a non-flu virus. You may have even been exposed after your shot but before it became fully effective. It takes about two weeks for your body to build up protection. But people with vaccines are only half as likely to end up in the hospital or experience serious consequences to being sick.