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Catching the flu makes you more susceptible to COVID-19, according to Tucson pediatrician

Posted at 4:46 PM, Sep 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-20 20:30:42-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Getting a flu shot could help protect you from COVID-19.

"We know that if you're sick with one viral illness, your immune system is more susceptible to the next thing that comes at you," says Dr. Sandy Herron of Tanque Verde Pediatrics.

She says we could see more cases of both COVID-19 and influenza popping up, as kids return to school; however, there could be a way to reduce the risk.

"As more kids get into school together and we have more children interacting with each other, we're anticipating a burst of both COVID diagnoses as well as the spread of other vial illnesses," says Herron."We're really hoping that mask wearing and social distancing does its job for the flu, as well as it does for COVID."

While her office hasn't seen a burst of COVID-19 cases in children, they have seen an increase of other illnesses as some schools begin hybrid and in-person learning.

"When a couple of the community schools went back, we saw a swift increase in viral illnesses," says Herron."By definition you kids together they're going to spread viral illness. So we're anticipating that happening, but we're prepared."

Herron says symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms are very similar, which can make it hard for parents with sick children to know what their child has.

"When a child comes in with a fever of a cough, it's going to very difficult to tell which one they have," says Harron. "In general, COVID is a little more slower onset of symptoms. Flu, in general, is you're sick one minute and sick the next."

The pediatrician recommends getting your flu shot early this year, since it takes a couple of weeks for your immune system to boost after getting the shot. Adding that any child six months old or older can, and should, get a flu shot.

"Any chance we have to decrease the frequency of influenza in our community, will be a win-win for everybody," says Harron. "We'll see less COVID if we can keep the flu under control."

According to Herron, last year Tanque Verde Pediatrics gave over 3,600 flu vaccines. She says this year, they're planning to give many more. To accommodate all of the patients, the clinic has begun drive-thru flu shots. The doctor says this helps reduce the flow of patients in the waiting room.

Tanque Verde Pediatrics gave about 50 flu shots during a trial round Saturday. Herron says, they're planning on giving 100-200 flu shots at each of the drive-thru events for the rest of flu season season.

"The more we can do to reduce viral illnesses in our community, the more forward progress we can make in terms of school openings and businesses openings," says Harron. "So we wanna encourage everyone to get their flu vaccines."