Be Prepared for Flu Season

In the United States, flu season generally runs from October through May. To prepare yourself and your family for the upcoming flu season, refer to the following tips on avoiding illness and learn the symptoms associated with illnesses that are common this time of year.  

Avoiding illness

The common cold, flu, and COVID-19 are all viruses, which spread in a similar manner. Viruses may be spread by respiratory droplets expelled through speaking, coughing, or sneezing. People may also pick up viruses on infected surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, giving the virus an avenue to enter the body.

Especially during flu season, be sure to take the following precautionary measures to help prevent illness:

  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Avoid large gatherings 
  • Maintain a physical distance from others in public settings
  • Wash your hands often
  • Use facial coverings when you are around others
  • Clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Stay up to date with preventive care
  • Practice good health habits such as adequate sleep, physical activity, stress management, drinking plenty of fluids, and making nutritious food choices

Other common illnesses can present with similar symptoms to the flu and testing may be the only way to know which virus is causing your symptoms. Identifying the virus will help your healthcare provider determine the best method of treatment.  


Symptoms generally appear 1-3 days after exposure and may include:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Fever (sometimes)
  • New loss of taste or smell (sometimes, especially with a runny nose)


Symptoms generally appear within 1-4 days of exposure and may include:

  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • vomiting/diarrhea (sometimes, more common in children)


Symptoms generally appear within 2-14 days of exposure and may include:

  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • vomiting/diarrhea (sometimes)
  • New loss of taste or smell

Vaccinations help reduce the chance of contracting serious illnesses. If you do contract the illness, being vaccinated reduces your risk of serious complications and hospitalization, which is especially important this year with the ongoing spread of COVID-19. Immunizations are generally recommended for everyone, even healthy people. Talk to your doctor about getting immunized, especially if you are high risk for serious complications.

Flu – A yearly flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older, especially those at high risk of flu related complications, such as:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Young children under 2 years old
  • Those with specific health conditions such asasthma, diabetes, heart disease, and more

COVID-19 – Currently, recommended for everyone 12 years and older, especially those at high risk of COVID-19 related complications, such as:

  • People 65 and older
  • People living in a long-term care facility
  • People living in a nursing home
  • People with underlying medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, lung disease, and more
Additional Information

For more information on common illnesses that show similar symptoms to COVID-19, refer to Mayo Clinic’s article COVID-19, cold, allergies and the flu: What are the differences?

For more information on what to expect this coming flu season, refer to Prevention’s article What to Expect From Colds, Flus, and COVID This Winter, According to Experts.