Libby Richards

Purdue University photo

Libby Richards, associate professor of nursing at Purdue University, says getting a flu shot will be extremely important this year.

WEST LAFAYETTE —With this year’s flu season coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, one Purdue University nursing expert is reminding people to be over-cautious by staying home if they are showing any signs of flu symptoms.

While some will shrug off simple symptoms, the flu actually can cause mild to severe illness in people. Common signs and symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose, according to Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing who specializes in public health in Purdue’s School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

“If you have flu-like symptoms, it is important to stay home,” Richards said. “The flu and COVID-19 are spread person-to-person through contact with respiratory droplets. It is important to limit the spread of both diseases by staying home when you are ill and limiting your contact with others.”

Richards says that because both flu and COVID-19 cause similar respiratory symptoms, a diagnostic test might be the only way to distinguish between the two diseases. Individuals should check with their health care provider on how to obtain a test, if needed.

“If you get the flu, resting, staying hydrated and taking over-the-counter medications for fevers and aches are ways to recover while at home,” she said. “However, if your symptoms develop very rapidly, if you are having difficulty breathing or your illness lasts longer than several days, contact your health care provider immediately.”

Richards says one way to lessen flu risks is to get a flu shot. Children over the age of 6 months and people in high-risk categories such as older adults, pregnant women, and those with asthma, heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, should get a shot. The best time to get a flu vaccination is now through November.