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Cold, Flu and COVID – Tips to Avoid All Three

Cold, Flu and COVID – Tips to Avoid All Three

It’s fall and, along with the change in weather, it’s time for your annual flu shot — and, along with the flu shot, the latest COVID-19 and RSV vaccinations also are available.

“Flu shots are now safe for those with egg allergies,” says Dr. Dianne Martin, Washington Hospital internal medicine and infectious disease specialist. “The vaccine has been reformulated so it’s important that individuals who have avoided them in the past because of this specific allergy get the flu shot this year.”

“Flu shots are available now and, since it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to generate an immune response, it’s important to get a flu shot as soon as possible,” she explains. COVID vaccines also are available and it’s ok to get both together if it’s also time for your COVID booster. The RSV vaccine is recommended only for those who are high-risk or in the defined age categories. In all cases, anyone with high-risk illnesses should consult his/her primary care physician before obtaining a vaccination. Most health insurance companies cover the cost of the three vaccines.

An annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, especially those defined as high risk for flu complications, those working in health care settings and those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Individuals with life-threatening flu vaccine allergies or Guillain-Barre Syndrome should not get the vaccination, Dr. Martin cautions.

Staying up-to-date with COVID vaccinations is very important, Dr. Martin stresses. “People are getting sick now with the new variants. Some have such a mild case, they don’t realize they have become infected so they go out and inadvertently infect others,” Dr. Martin explains. “That’s why it’s important to protect yourself with the latest vaccine as soon as you are eligible for it.

“Keep a COVID test kit handy so you can test for that virus right away when you feel symptoms coming on. That way you won’t spread the virus to others.” Up to four free COVID tests per household address can be ordered through the US Postal Service at

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is a common cause of respiratory illness that usually presents with mild cold-like symptoms and most individuals recover within a week or two. However, infants and older adults are more likely to develop severe RSV infections and, in some cases, may need hospitalization.

There are two forms of prevention. One is a monoclonal antibody and the other is a vaccine from modified RSV.

RSV Immunization is a monoclonal antibody, Nirsevimab (Beyfortus), which is recommended for all infants younger than 8 months of age who are entering their first Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) season. Parents can check with their pediatrician to see if a second RSV immunization this year may be recommended for their child.

There are two types of RSV vaccines and a single dose is effective. Both work by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies against RSV. Both RSV vaccines (Arexvy and Abrysol) are recommended for older adults over the age of 60 and for those with weakened immune systems. Only Abrysol is recommended for women 32-36 weeks of pregnancy to protect babies from birth to 6 months.

Different viruses cause COVID, RSV or the flu: COVID (SARS-CoV-2), RSV–respiratory virus; flu–influenza virus. Common shared symptoms include: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headache and, with some individuals, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults). All three viruses can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from none to severe, Dr. Martin says.

The flu vaccine should be taken every year as the flu virus changes each year, Dr. Martin explains. She also notes that it’s likely that the COVID vaccine will be recommended annually as its virus also changes from year to year.

To protect yourself against the various viruses, Dr. Martin recommends:

• Get the flu vaccine every year.

• Practice good hand and personal hygiene.

• Cover your mouth while sneezing or coughing.

• Wear a mask and practice social distancing.

• Do not delay care if you feel symptoms coming on.

Flu shots generally are available from local pharmacies. For more information about how to obtain a flu shot, contact your primary care physician or call the Washington Hospital scheduling line at 510.248.8201.