woman getting flu shotOur current focus on COVID-19 doesn’t mean you should neglect getting a flu shot this year. A new study suggests the vaccine actually lowers your risk for being hospitalized if you get COVID-19.

“COVID patients who had not received a flu vaccine within the last year had 2.4 times greater odds of being hospitalized and 3.3 times greater chance of being transferred to [an intensive care unit],” said study author Dr. Ming-Jim Yang.

The flu vaccine may also stimulate the immune system to step up and fight off COVID-19 more quickly and rigorously than otherwise, Yang added.

But if you do get sick, how do you know if you have COVID-19, the flu, or just the “common cold?” Symptoms such as fever, sneezing, cough and fatigue can overlap between these illnesses, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology.

“One symptom that seems to be unique to COVID-19 is a loss of sense of smell or taste. However, none of these symptoms are perfect to diagnose the cause of ‘cold-like’ symptoms, and the only way to know for sure is to get tested,” Khan said.