University Health Partners physician on staying healthy during flu season

Sponsored by the John A. Burns School of Medicine and University Health Partners of Hawaii

Hawaii is officially in the middle of the flu season, so what does that mean in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? HI Now host Kanoe Gibson spoke with Dr. Robert Hong from University Health Partners of Hawaii and the John A. Burns School of Medicine to get some answers to some frequently asked questions.

Dr. Hong wants to stress to viewers that it’s completely possible to test positive for the flu (or any other respiratory infection) and COVID-19 at the same time. That’s why it’s even more important to make sure you get your flu shot this year.

“There is an overlap in symptoms between the common cold, flu and COVID-19. This can cause undue anxiety when people are experiencing cold and flu season reactions and fear they may be infected with something more severe and life threatening,” Dr. Hong explains. “In many cases, it’s difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone. Testing is highly recommended to confirm your diagnosis, one way or another.”

Dr. Hong also recommends yearly flu vaccinations, as they will reduce your chance of getting the flu.

Many people have also expressed concerns that a flu shot will make them more susceptible to COVID-19. Dr. Hong says that’s not true.

“Due to the overlap in symptoms between the flu and COVID-19, it is easy to incorrectly correlate one with the other,” he says. “The best way to avoid confusion is to get the flu vaccine to prevent influenza from occurring in the first place. It’s important to remember that flu vaccines have no bearing on COVID infections. There is even some evidence that suggests the flu vaccine may lessen the severity of COVID symptoms.”

Dr. Hong says that while the symptoms are similar (fever, cough and difficulty breathing), there is no connection between the flu and COVID-19.

Although not always pronounced, Dr. Hong says the most distinct symptom of COVID is a loss of taste or smell. Otherwise, COVID-19 symptoms tend to be experienced as more pronounced versions of those caused by the flu.

If you or someone you know believes they may have contracted COVID-19, pay special attention to the following symptoms: persistent trouble breathing or pain in the chest, mental fogginess or confusion, difficulty staying awake, or bluish lips and face. These symptoms in particular merit special caution, and medical attention should be sought out immediately. Whether you call 911 or have someone take you to the hospital, don’t wait until it’s too late to receive care for your condition.

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