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

woman headache
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNSeptember 21, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

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.



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