As flu season collides with a pandemic, do all you can to protect yourself and your community.

Your Health, Family Health, Primary Care

Stay Ahead of This Year's Flu Season Using this Comprehensive Guide

Each year, millions of Americans get sick with the flu. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can even lead to death. Here, experts weigh in on important steps you or your family should take in order to stay healthy. 

(1)  Doctor’s Orders: Prepare Now to Protect Yourself from This Year’s Flu Season

In 2020, public health experts feared a twindemic—a severe flu season coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, flu cases were remarkably low last flu season, likely due to stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 prevention measures that kept it from circulating. Dr. Carmen Teague warns that we may not be so lucky this year, which is why she’s urging everyone to prepare now for the upcoming flu season.

(2) Ready or Not…Flu Is Due for a Comeback This Year

In late 2020 and early 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country, there was one bright spot: The influenza virus never took hold. But with another flu season rapidly approaching as healthcare facilities continue to manage the current surge from the Delta variant, Atrium Health infectious disease physicians like Dr. Anupama Neelakanta are anxious for the public to understand what to expect this flu season and how to stay healthy as it approaches.

(3) Why This Year's Flu Vaccine is More Important than Ever

As flu season collides with a pandemic, do all you can to protect yourself and your community.

(4) Pregnant and Trying to Conceive? Don’t Skip the Flu Shot

With flu season lasting from October to May, messages urging every American to roll up their sleeves for their flu shot. One group that especially shouldn’t skip the flu shot is expectant mothers and women who are trying to conceive. 

(5) Parents’ Top Flu Questions About Children Answered

Whether you’re an expecting parent, a new parent or a seasoned veteran, we all have questions about kids and the flu. Rhonda Patt, MD, medical director, Charlotte Pediatric Clinic, has answers to some of the top questions that parents when it comes to the flu and their children. 

(6) 5 Simple Ways to Prevent the Flu

Every year, you hear about new ways to prevent the flu. Elderberry syrup and Greek yogurt, zinc and acupuncture – they’re all touted to fight the flu. But the truth is, they’re not all proven to work; in fact, some aren’t even proven to be safe. Fortunately, these 5 tips for preventing the flu are doctor-approved and oh, so simple.    

(7) Why Those with Diabetes Shouldn't Skip the Flu Shot

For people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, avoiding the flu is especially important. Those with the disease, even when well-managed, are at a higher risk of certain flu-related health complications, including pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections or worsening of existing health conditions. That’s why it’s so important to get a flu shot in order to lower your risks of developing serious flu-related complications.

(8) So You Think You've Got the Flu, Now What? 

If you believe you might have the flu, there are some symptoms to look out for and ways to treat them. Andres Sanchez, MD, explains what to do if you suspect you have the flu and when to seek medical care.

(9) Your Guide for Knowing Where to Go for the Right Type of Care

If you need to see a doctor, it's important to know where to go, especially during flu season. This guide to care options can help you determine whether your sickness can be handled by your doctor, via a video visit or warrants a trip to the Emergency Department.

Explore flu care options online.

If you're curious about whether flu is circulating in your area this flu season, Sneez allows you to track trending illnesses in real time. With data on everything from flu and COVID-19 to RSV and more, Sneez can help your family stay informed and healthy. Learn more and begin tracking:

Flu FAQs

Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by viruses. Keep reading for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What are the signs and symptoms of the flu?

Common flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headaches and/or body aches and pain
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea

How can people tell they have the flu versus COVID-19?

These two viruses can present very similarly – both often have muscle aches, fatigue, fevers, cough, and congestion. COVID-19 more commonly has loss of taste and smell and GI symptoms such as diarrhea, but generally testing is needed to tell the difference between flu and COVID-19.

What should I do if I think I have the flu or COVID-19?

Stay home if you are sick to avoid infecting other people, wash your hands regularly, wear a mask if you do have to go out in public and talk to your doctor about getting tested for flu, COVID-19 or both.  The primary treatment for both is supportive (fluids, fever lowering medicine as needed, etc.). If you are high-risk or have underlying medical conditions, talk to your primary care provider to determine the best treatment option for you. Early treatment could help prevent more severe disease for those who are high-risk. 

If I get the flu vaccine, can I still get the flu?

Yes, but vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. And if you’re vaccinated and still catch the flu, the vaccine can actually help reduce the severity of your symptoms or shorten how long you’re sick.

Can I get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Yes, the CDC says it is safe to receive both the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time and you do not need to spread out vaccinations.

How does the flu spread?

Like COVID-19, the flu is spread mainly from person to person, usually through coughing, sneezing and talking. It’s also possible to catch the flu by touching something with the flu virus on it, then touching your mouth or nose or eyes.

You’re most likely to catch the flu during late fall, winter and early spring.

Considering the dual risk of flu and COVID-19 this fall and winter, should we change how we protect ourselves from a contagious virus?

Continue to follow the appropriate protective measures in place in your community such as wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth when in high-risk indoor settings (single layer cloth masks or gaiters seem to provide less protection),  practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from others, stay home when sick, wash your hands regularly and avoid group gatherings.. Vaccination against both flu and COVID-19 will be the best way to stay protected and important in reducing the spread of both viruses in the community.

How long is the flu contagious?

You can spread the flu before you even know you’re sick, as well as after most symptoms have gone away.

Adults with the flu are contagious as early as one day before any symptoms appear and if a week or more after they start feeling sick. Children can be contagious for even longer.

Are there medicines to treat the flu?

Yes. But most people with mild cases of the flu don’t need medication.  

Flu medications should only be considered if you’re sick enough to go to the hospital or if you have conditions that put you at risk for more serious flu complications – like pneumonia, lung disease or a weakened immune system.

Your healthcare provider will decide if your illness requires flu medication.