(StatePoint) With students across the country returning to the classroom and adults returning to the workplace and gathering in person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that the second flu season of the COVID-19 pandemic will be significantly more active than last year.
But, the good news is that there are three simple steps everyone can take to help protect themselves, their loved ones and communities:

1. Get the Flu Shot: Make sure to get the flu shot, and get it as early as possible. Most health care providers advise getting your flu vaccine in early fall.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early results show that only about half (50% – 55%) of U.S. adults received the flu vaccine last year. And, the rate of vaccination among children dropped from 62% in 2019-2020 to 58% in 2020-2021, which could be attributed to remote learning and greater isolation than in previous years.
Everyone in the household should get the flu vaccine—especially working adults, seniors and children in school or daycare. With COVID-19 variants making people sicker than previously seen, getting the vaccine and protecting yourself from the flu can keep your immune system healthy. Some studies have even found that individuals who contracted COVID-19 but received the flu shot were less likely to require treatment from an emergency department or intensive care unit.
Also, if you fall within the CDC’s recommendations for COVID-19 boosters, you should consider getting both at the same time as a convenient way to protect yourself and others from flu and COVID this season.
The benefits of increased immunization provided by both the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations can also help ease the burden on an already overloaded health care system. Around the country, there have been heartbreaking reports of full intensive care units having to turn away sick patients. Protecting yourself against the flu is one way you can help to relieve health care providers and frontline workers.

2. Practice Healthy Hygiene: Continue to practice healthy hygiene habits like washing your hands regularly and wearing a mask when appropriate. This means wearing a mask while shopping indoors, or attending an indoor event with a crowd of people.

3. Stay Home When Sick: Stay home and avoid contact with others if you aren’t feeling well. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 and flu look alike—including fever, cough, muscle aches and sore throat—and knowing the difference can only be done through testing. Get tested if you develop any of these symptoms to rule out COVID-19, since its symptoms can often become more serious.

“The best thing you can do to help yourself, your family, and your community is to get both the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine, as well as a COVID-19 booster if you are eligible and to practice healthy hygiene habits,” says Dr. Steve Miller, chief clinical officer, Cigna Corp. “The only way out of the pandemic is by working together and taking steps to protect ourselves and each other.”