Fortunately, many of the COVID-19 guidelines that are in place are also helpful in preventing the spread of the flu. Masking, hand washing and simply staying at home when you don't feel well are all simple ways we can prevent the spread of the flu and COVID-19.

Get Your Flu Shot

According to Dr. Rebecca Cantu, a physician at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the earlier in the season you get your flu shot, the better. And while it is still possible to get the flu despite being vaccinated, the vaccine is very effective and will still decrease the risk of hospitalization or death due to the flu.

"We recommend everyone be vaccinated by the end of October," Dr. Cantu said. "It takes about two weeks for the full immunity effect. However, you can get your vaccine at any point during the season, well into the spring."

Last year, 188 children in the U.S. died from the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever during 2020-2021 to protect yourself and the people around you from flu, and to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic." By getting vaccinated for the flu, you're protecting your health and the health of those around you.

Almost everyone ages 6 months and older should get a flu shot. Flu shots also are especially recommended for pregnant women. According to the CDC, there are relatively few people who should not get a flu shot, including those with allergies to the vaccine. If you have questions about whether or not you should get a flu shot, talk to your health care provider.

"Children are actually affected much more by the seasonal flu than COVID-19, at least so far," Dr. Cantu said. "Healthy children are a lot more likely to have complications from flu than COVID-19. Both the flu and COVID-19 are very contagious and can be severe and even deadly, even in healthy people, so it's important to do everything possible to prevent the spread of both."

Additional Ways to Prevent the Spread of Influenza

Many of the healthy habits we have gotten used to that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 are equally as effective in preventing the spread of the flu.

“One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is the normalization of safety measures like face masks and hand washing,” Dr. Cantu said. “…if people comply with them, we hope to see a decrease in COVID-19 and flu.”

There are many preventative measures you can take to prevent the spread of germs, including those that cause the flu.

These recommendations from the CDC are easy to put into practice if you have not done so already:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
    • For kids, sing the alphabet through twice to make sure they spend enough time washing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

You are on your way to facing flu season. Plus, if your pediatrician is at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, call 501-364-1202 or 479-725-6995 for Arkansas Children's Northwest to make an appointment to get your flu shot. If you have an upcoming appointment, be sure to ask your care team for a flu shot when you visit.