By Robin Clutters

(CBS4)– It’s already time to start thinking about flu season. With COVID-19 cases once again on the rise, doctors are concerned hospitals could be overwhelmed by both flu and coronavirus cases. That’s why they hope you’ll get your flu shot this fall.

Dr. Scott Joy is the Chief Medical Officer for the HealthONE Physician Services Group. On CBSN Denver, he told us the best time to get your flu shot is around mid-to-late October.

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“There’s a five to six-month coverage with the influenza vaccine. You don’t want to get it too early because you may get a flu season in February and March. If you get the vaccine in September, it might wane the immunity as it gets into early spring.”

Many people may be due to get their COVID-19 booster shot in October. Dr. Joy says you can get the booster and flu vaccine at the same time.

“There is no scientific evidence to say it is not a good idea to get both of them together. From a convenience standpoint, it really makes a lot of sense to get them together so you’re covered for the rest of the season.”

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Flu and coronavirus do share a lot of similar symptoms including fever and chills, cough, fatigue, and sore throat. So how do you tell the difference?

“I think the thing that we’ve seen with COVID over the last year and a half is the loss of taste and smell to be very specific to the coronavirus. We don’t see that recorded with the influenza virus,” says Dr. Joy. “Recently we’ve seen some patients who have tested positive for COVID have more GI symptoms and some nausea, some vomiting and diarrhea, which is different than what we saw earlier in the pandemic.”

Last year’s flu activity was at a record low thanks to more people getting the vaccine, along with mask-wearing and social distancing. Dr. Joy says he hopes those good behaviors stick around so flu activity can remain low this season. And if you needed more reason to get a flu shot, Dr. Joy says studies show patients who get the flu shot get 25% fewer other viruses throughout the season.

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“So not only does it protect you against the influenza virus, but it also looks like it can help reduce the risk of those other pesky upper respiratory viruses that we tend to get in the fall and winter seasons.”

Robin Clutters