Flu, Allergy Seasons Cause Uncertainty During Pandemic

Photo courtesy of Medical News Today

Fall is in full swing, and that means colder temperatures, changing leaves, allergies and the flu.  

From October to May, the flu’s spreading patterns can lead to a weaker immune system and possible hospitalization. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), our best bet in overcoming the unpredictable illness is through an annual vaccination. However, with COVID-19 still present, uncertainty in differentiating between symptoms of the two is being pushed to the extreme.

Sam Houston State University Director of Student Health Services Erica Bumpurs said it is important to be proactive in staying safe against these viruses.

“This season is going to be very confusing, because one of the things that we know is that the flu and COVID symptoms really mirror each other as far as the symptoms that you would experience,” Bumpurs said. “So, with both flu and COVID you may have fever, you may have cough, you may have congestion, so it’s going to be really hard to differentiate between the two. We feel from a health perspective that’s why it’s even more important this season to be proactive to prevent illness, and any respiratory illness.”

Bumpurs said the Student Health Center recommends that patients who normally have seasonal allergies treat their allergies very aggressively this season.

Cough, shortness of breath and fever are symptoms of both COVID-19 and the flu. This could potentially cause more difficulty for both patients and doctors in determining which is present and how to treat it.

Bumpurs said testing options could be an active step in clearing up that grey area, but there is always a chance of false results.

“Determining if it is or is not COVID really relies on testing options,” Bumpurs said. “The other thing that we know is that the testing option is also not a definite answer, so there is the risk of a false negative. There are many cases where we see students who have the signs and symptoms that it could be COVID. We do the COVID test and it may come back negative which, in a lot of cases, we have to assume that it’s a false negative because of how their symptoms are presenting.”

It’s even more important this season to be vigilant when acknowledging your health, so Bumpurs suggests that students get their annual flu shot alongside practicing pandemic safety measures.

“We want students to get their flu shot every season, but we want to be mindful that this season in particular, with the other situation that we’re dealing with with COVID, we want to take every step possible to reduce the risk of respiratory illness,” Bumpurs said. “Just like COVID, flu is a respiratory illness. Not only do the symptoms present in the same way, it is spread in the same way through respiratory droplets. So, getting a flu shot, again, is not going to prevent the flu in every case, but it is going to give you that higher level of protection.”

Bumpurs said that social distancing, washing hands frequently, wearing masks and staying home if you’re feeling sick will work to combat both the flu and COVID-19.

For more information or if you have questions related to the flu, allergies or COVID-19, visit the Student Health Center website at https://www.shsu.edu/dept/student-health-center/index.html.

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