With masks off and temperatures fluctuating, it’s important we learn how to combat the flu and flu-like symptoms.

According to Dr. Barry-Lewis Harris, MD, a physician at Parkland, flu cases tend to spike due to certain bacteria and viruses thriving in certain temperatures. 

“Change in the weather can increase flu or other pneumonias because people have a tendency to congregate indoors. It’s the ability to be around more people who are sick because of the close quarters. That is one of the reasons why you may have more instances of the flu when it gets colder,” Dr. Harris said. 

In terms of people’s potential resistance to keeping up with the flu, Dr. Harris states that it may be due to people experiencing some flu/vaccine fatigue related to COVID. Dr. Harris warns that much like COVID, the flu can mutate as well, and while keeping up with your flu vaccine does not stop you from getting it, it can lessen its effects.  

 “We have to create a new formulation of the vaccine, which is the first line of defense for the provision of great negative effects of having the flu. It won’t keep you from getting it, but it will help you to fight it when you are exposed,” he said.

According to Dr. Harris, one of the first lines of defense to combating the flu is getting the flu vaccine. He recommends getting the flu vaccine around October, when flu cases begin to go up. 

“That’s when weather things start changing, and also you see more people indoors and that type of thing. 

It’s also beneficial to avoid being in close contact with people when you experience the flu or flu- like symptoms. Washing your hands is also crucial to keeping the flu at bay. Following the 22nd hand washing rule and actively avoiding touching your face with your hands, as it can cause cross-contamination. 

In terms of identifying symptoms of the flu, the indicators can overlap with COVID. The feelings that can come with the flu, however, leave you horribly worn down. 

“Most of the time, we would consider a flu with someone feeling like they just got really beat up, you know, like a boxing bag, or we used to say, years ago, you got run over by a Mack truck, or you know, tractor trailer, like we just feel like completely tired, worn down. So therefore, that fatigue, that major thing is a major sign and symptom of that,” Dr. Harris said.

Children, more than adults, are likely to experience vomiting and diarrhea.  If you do happen to fall ill from the flu and are unable to get to the doctor, it would be in your best interest to keep plenty of fluids in your system to ensure you’re not dehydrated. Tylenol can also help you manage the symptoms of the flu. 

“That’s really important so that your body can heal, and your body can fight off this particular disease. That’s what you can do without going to a medical health professional. If you can get to a health professional, then they may prescribe you the influenza antiviral medication, which will be a good treatment option for you.”

This article is brought to you in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.