Is 2021 Going to Be a Bad Flu Season? A Doctor Weighs In
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With the temperatures slowly but surely starting to drop across the country, there's one question on people's minds (well, probably a few, but this one's pretty crucial!):
Will 2021 be a bad flu season?
Here's what Dr. Ian Smith has to say.
"Last season was a really, really low, good season for both the flu and the cold—not many cases, relatively speaking," says Dr. Ian. "And that's because, in the middle of the [Covid-19] pandemic, we were doing all the things we need to do to prevent transmission of the flu"—i.e. social distancing, mask wearing and the continuous cleaning of both our hands and surfaces.
However, he says, as those regulations have started to relax across the country, "there may be an uptick this year in flu and common cold cases. We hope not! But early indication says that maybe there will be."
Testing for Covid + The Flu
So what should we do? If you are feeling unwell, you should get yourself tested. And the good news is, because we know there are some overlapping symptoms between the two, you can get tested for the regular flu and Covid at the same time, Dr. Ian says. You can go to a hospital or local testing center and an administrator will use a nasal swab to collect a specimen that can then be divided in half and used for each test. (Two birds, one stone!)
However, he notes, this is not doable with the at-home Covid test. "At-home Covid tests do not test for the flu, I want to be clear," Dr. Ian says.
And you absolutely should if you have symptoms, because, as Dr. Ian says, "60,000+ people a year die from the flu, so I don't want to diminish it. It's obviously not as deadly as Covid and these new variants, but we still have to take the flu very seriously. And those who are at risk for other illnesses really have to be serious about taking the flu shot."
When should I get my flu shot?
Dr. Ian suggests getting the shot by the end of October, "so you have your immune system [ready] before the peak flu season action kicks into gear."