WebMD BlogsPublic Health

'Can You Have COVID-19 and the Flu at the Same Time?'

woman headache
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNSeptember 21, 2020

You wake up one fall morning feeling groggy and feverish. You think "flu," but then instantly wonder, "Could this be COVID-19?"

Then a third -- and scarier -- idea hits: What if it’s both?

It’s highly unlikely you would wake up with both COVID-19 and the flu -- they probably wouldn’t hit you at the exact same time. But it’s definitely possible you could get one and then the other -- and wind up infected with both at the same time.

The possibility of people being sick with both flu and COVID-19 at the same time is the scenario health care professionals fear the most right now, because fighting off two respiratory infections at the same time could be “catastrophic for your immune system,” according to one doctor.

Fighting off one infection makes your immune system temporarily less able to fend off another invader. If your body is coping with an influenza infection and you then get exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (or vice-versa), it’s hard for your immune system to suddenly switch gears to produce the large numbers of antibodies required to neutralize the second virus. While your immune system is trying to ramp up, the second virus gets a foothold, and … boom, you’re sick with both illnesses.

To reduce the possibility of getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, you should get a flu shot. The vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, but it might prevent the flu (and it will help your immune system fend off influenza if you do get sick). And, of course, continue to wear a mask in public, always stay at least 6 feet away from other people, and wash your hands frequently.

And if you do happen to wake up feeling groggy and feverish (or with any other symptoms), get a COVID-19 test. And also call your doctor’s office. Since the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar, ask your doctor if you should also get a flu test.

 

 

WebMD Blog
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

More from the Public Health Blog

  • vitamin d supplement

    'What's the Best Time of Day to Take Vitamins?'

    Knowing what time of day to take your vitamin and mineral supplements can help you maximize their effectiveness and avoid dangerous interactions.

  • man sore throat

    'Does a Sore Throat Mean I'm Sick?'

    If your only symptom is a sore throat, it may not be anything to get worked up about. But, how do you know if you need to call a doctor?

View all posts on Public Health

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More