It’s World AIDS Day—Let’s Talk About PrEP!

Pills of prescription PrEP Pills for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis to help protect people from HIV.

There are approximately 1.1 million people in the US living with HIV today. World AIDS Day, celebrated each December 1st, is an opportunity to increase awareness and knowledge about HIV, support those living with the virus, and champion efforts to prevent new infections.

One such effort? Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP: a once-a-day pill that prevents HIV-negative people from becoming infected.

PrEP is over 90% effective at preventing HIV infection. When used as directed, it’s one of the most powerful tools for stopping the spread of AIDS— and yet, the drug is largely underutilized.

A myriad of barriers drives low usage rates: cost, accessibility, and—perhaps most unfortunately—stigma.

Even today, HIV is unfairly stigmatized by homophobia. Many—especially those in the queer community—are hesitant to seek out drugs like PrEP for fear of feeling judged.

Moreover, when you talk about HIV prevention, you have to talk about sex—which, let’s face it, can be uncomfortable. Many doctors and patients shy away from discussing PrEP due to feelings of embarrassment.

At Zoom, we want to eliminate factors that prevent people from seeking care. We encourage open, honest discussions about HIV risk; we strive to create a stigma-free environment where people can access screening and prevention options that are safe, effective, and meet their needs.

Talking openly about HIV screening and prevention confronts the stigma associated with the virus. It also helps normalize drugs like PrEP as a routine part of preventive healthcare, just like birth control. That’s why— in anticipation of World AIDS Day—we sat down with one of our providers, Allison Ehrlich, for a frank discussion about this life-saving drug. Read on:

Hi Allison! Thank you so much for sitting down to talk PrEP with us. First things first: What is PrEP?

PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is the act of taking daily medications, such as Truvada, that can help prevent contracting HIV through sexual activity and IV drug use in combination with safer sex practices including using condoms and lube, talking with your partner about HIV status, and getting tested regularly for STIs. 

Why do we need new HIV prevention tools like PrEP? Aren’t condoms enough?

We have come a long way in the medical field with testing, treating and preventing HIV with PrEP, Truvada being one of these medications. Condoms are a great tool when used with PrEP to help protect yourself from HIV in addition to other STIs, but are not enough alone. They can break, may not be used properly, or not provide adequate coverage to reduce the risk of transmission of an STI. 

Who is a good candidate for PrEP? How do I know if it’s right for me? 

PrEP is recommended for the following populations: men who have sex with men (MSM), sex with multiple partners, involved in an open relationship, engage in sexual activity with a partner who is HIV+, or uses IV drugs. 

PrEP might be right for you if you have the following risk factors:

  • Have one or more HIV+ or injection sexual partners
  • Having sex with someone in a sexual network where HIV is common
  • Having a prior STI
  • Participate in sex work
  • Using condoms inconsistently or never
  • Share injection equipment 

It is important to talk with your healthcare provider and be honest about your sexual and medical history and lifestyle risk factors. They can help determine if PrEP is right for you. 

How effective is PrEP, and how soon does PrEP become effective after you start it? 

Per the CDC: “Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken daily.”

PrEP when taken daily takes at least 7 days for maximum protection against HIV.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects in clinical trials included nausea or headaches, but usually subside over several weeks. 

If I’m taking PrEP, do I still need to get tested for STIs?

Yes, you need to get tested every 3 months for HIV, and every 6 months for other STIs—sooner if you have any concerns. 

I’m worried I’ve been exposed to HIV. Is PrEP a good option for me?

No, PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis and is used before you come into contact with HIV. If you are worried you have already been exposed to HIV, then you will need PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis. This is a month-long course of therapy that needs to be started within 72 hours of exposure. 

I’m nervous about talking to my doctor about PrEP. How should I bring it up?

ZOOM+Care is a great place to talk about PrEP, because we understand it can be a sensitive topic. It is important to be clear about wanting to start PrEP. We will need to discuss your medical and sexual history to help us determine your risk factors, if you are a good candidate for PrEP, and how to best assist you in getting Truvada.

Why does ZOOM+Care support the use of PrEP?

PrEP, in combination with safer sex practices and other prevention tools, is an amazing method to help protect yourself from becomming infected with HIV. ZOOM+Care is open 7 days a week, holidays, and have clinics open until midnight providing easy access to care. Our central pharmacy is happy to assist with Truvada for PrEP and discuss ways to reduce the monthly cost. You can go online at or on the iOS app to schedule a visit.

Interested in HIV screening, education, or prevention? We’re here. Schedule an appointment today.

The Health Benefits of Counting Your Blessings

Thank you note on stocky note on blue background gratitude

You’ve heard your grandma say it a thousand times: Count your blessings. The adage is annoyingly prevalent during the holiday season, but—as it turns out—granny was onto something. Burgeoning research shows that gratitude has tangible, positive effects on mental and physical health, including better sleep, reduced depression, and improved relationships.

Let’s back up a little—what is gratitude, anyways?

Robert Emmons (one of the leading scientific experts on this topic) defines gratitude as a “sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

If you’re feeling a little more Grinch than Cindy Lou, here are four science-backed reasons to start cultivating gratitude this Thanksgiving—and year-round, too:

1. Sweeter Sleep

After a long, stressful day, your head hits the pillow—and a compilation of your most embarrassing, cringe-worthy memories starts to play. Sound familiar?  

If you’re nodding your head “yes,” you might want to stop counting sheep and start counting blessings instead. According to a 2009 study, cultivating gratitude may help you doze off faster, sleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed.

The study linked gratitude to having more positive thoughts (and fewer negative ones) at bedtime. 

It seems obvious, but cultivating positive thoughts helps push pessimism and worry—the enemies of sleep—out of your mind. Rather than obsessing over a friend who forgot to text you back, you’re remembering the coworker who went out of their way to check in with you. Instead of stressing over an awkward social interaction, you’re thinking about that presentation you nailed at work.  

Better than a lullaby, right?

2. improved relationships

Turns out, gratitude is for lovers. 

According to research from the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, expressing gratefulness toward your partner can strengthen your bond, improve feelings of harmony, and boost overall satisfaction with your relationship.  

Couples who intentionally expressed gratitude for their significant other not only felt more positively towards them, but were more comfortable addressing concerns about their relationship, too. 

The study’s lead author, Dr. Sara Algoe, says, “Feelings of gratitude and generosity are helpful in solidifying our relationships with people we care about.” 

Want to put gratefulness to practice in your relationship? Here’s an easy tip: Find something you genuinely appreciate about your partner give them an authentic compliment.

3. Boosted physical health

The benefits of thankfulness go beyond the psychological—cultivating gratitude can improve your physical health as well. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, giving thanks on a routine basis can motivate you to meet your diet and exercise goals—and cut down on unhealthy habits such as cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse. 

According to Robert Emmons’ 2003 study, participants who kept a daily gratitude journal exercised more, had more energy and reported fewer aches and pains. 

Emmons also found gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression, which brings us to our next point…

4. Decreased depression levels

While research on gratitude is still in a fledgling state, many psychologists are exploring the relationship between thankfulness, mental health, and depression.  

A recent study in Current Psychology examined the link between gratitude and depression in university students in China. The discovery? Gratitude may “counteract the symptoms of depression by enhancing a state of peace of mind and reducing ruminative thinking.” (Rumination is repetitively going over a negative thought or a situation without moving into problem-solving.)

Anyone who’s struggled with depression knows how awful those persistent, cycling thoughts can be—so the notion that gratitude could help alleviate them is promising, indeed. 

gratitude is not a cure-all

We want to make one thing clear: there’s no evidence that gratitude can cure serious illnesses or depression. It’s not a panacea—and it’s not for everybody, either. 
What cultivating gratitude can do is help us focus on the positive things in our lives, which can help boost our mood more than we ever imagined. 

Ready to start practicing gratitude year-round?

Get started with the tried-and-true “three good things” exercise. Every night, write down three good things that happened during the day.

For some of us, “the most wonderful time of the year” is anything but. If you or someone you know needs mental health support through the holidays, we’re here.

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Holidays during COVID: Here’s How to Celebrate Safely

Broken ornament on a blue background representing COVID disrupting Christmas and holiday traditions.

With the promise of vaccines just around the corner, it finally feels like we’re in the home stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s so tempting to put thoughts of the virus aside as the holidays approach. After all we’ve been through this year, haven’t we earned a celebration?

Yes. But. We aren’t out of the woods yet. And experts predict that the choices Americans make this holiday season will determine how much higher those death tolls rise before a vaccine becomes widely available.

So with that in mind, we have a few tips on how to celebrate safely in 2020.

Tip 1: Celebrate in person only with members of your own household

We know. This tip is not what anyone wants to hear. But this is what the CDC recommends, and we have to agree: with COVID cases spiking across the country, the only safe way for Americans to celebrate the holidays this year is with members of our own households.

This is because even if you and your would-be dinner guests are young, healthy, and have a relatively low risk of getting seriously ill from COVID, your community is full of people who are not —and those folks often don’t have a choice to completely isolate or avoid exposure. As of November 19, we have reached the devastating landmark of a million new COVID cases every week and nearly 2,000 Americans dying in a single day. Evidence suggests that young, asymptomatic carriers are behind this fall’s dramatic increase in community spread.

We are still in the midst of a national pandemic, with case numbers soaring higher than ever before. Remember back in March, when we cheered for healthcare workers every night and sewed homemade masks for local hospitals?

We need to summon that spirit again. During this season of giving, we all need to do our part to keep our vulnerable neighbors safe. Stay home when you can, even on holidays, and wear a mask when you can’t.

Tip 2: ‘Tis the season to get creative

Depressing news aside, there are still ways to make memories and celebrate holidays with your extended family and friends.

First, since we now know that COVID is much more likely to spread through the air than via surfaces, you can feel comfortable sending holiday cards, gifts, even homemade baked goods throughout the season. (No more need to worry about microwaving the mail, in other words.)

Think of how to move your beloved traditions online, like virtual holiday movie screenings, cookie baking sessions, recipe swaps, crafting parties, or happy hours. And spend a little extra time planning and scheduling these activities in advance—the anticipation is half the fun, and having something fun to look forward to could mean a lot to loved ones living alone.

You can even plan a Friendsgiving feast, 2020 style: coordinate with “guests” to prepare side dishes, exchange them at a distance, and return home to dine over video hangout.

No, it’s not the same—but it’s safe.

Tip 3: Don’t rely on COVID testing to feel safe

We’re concerned to see reports of COVID testing skyrocketing over the last week—partly due to increased community spread of the virus, but partly due to holiday-related demand for tests.

The truth is simple. You cannot rely on a negative COVID test to keep your loved ones safe.

Tests capture a snapshot of how much coronavirus is present in your body at the moment in time you took the test. The incubation period for COVID ranges from two days to two weeks—meaning you could be exposed one day, test negative the next, and develop symptoms a few days later.

“People need to recognize that a test today only proves you’re OK today. It says nothing about whether you might be incubating, or exposed, and won’t turn positive tomorrow or the next day,” according to infectious disease specialist Dr. Cameron Wolfe.

Let’s say you were tested on the morning of December 19, six days before Christmas, and your test is negative. If you were exposed to COVID on December 18, your test is meaningless—the virus takes at least 48 hours to incubate in your body.

If you were exposed to COVID on December 14, your December 19 test results still could be inaccurate—you may not have enough of the virus in your body to register a positive test, but by Christmas Day, you could be invisibly yet highly contagious with zero symptoms. In this scenario, you could isolate for twelve days, drive a few hours with no stops, and still infect your family.

And of course, you could get exposed to the virus anytime after your test, including on your airplane or car ride to Grandma’s house.

We’ll say it one more time: A negative COVID test is not proof you and your loved ones are safe.

We know this post is a big bummer. But it’s not nearly as depressing as unintentionally spreading COVID to someone you love—or a stranger you’ll never know. Do your part, stay home, and help everyone have a happy holiday!

Along with mashed potatoes, egg nog, and pie, the holidays serve up a helping of health hazards. If you experience a holiday mishap this Thanksgiving, we’re here. 

What Is SAD, and What Can I Do about It?

Clouds raining against a blue background, symboling SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD isn’t just an on-the-nose nickname. It stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it’s a type of depression that comes and goes with the changing seasons—most often in the winter and fall. 

This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and a turbulent election causing higher stress levels and feelings of isolation, people with SAD could experience more intense symptoms than usual. So let’s dive into what SAD is and what you—or your loved ones—can do about it.

What is SAD?

As the days get shorter and darker, people vulnerable to SAD may experience common symptoms of depression like feeling low-energy, losing interest in once-beloved activities, or having trouble concentrating. SAD also brings along a few of its characteristic symptoms, such as oversleeping (called hypersomnia), increased cravings for sugary and starchy carbs, and social withdrawal. 

If that sounds a lot like hibernation—or just daily life in the year 2020—you’re not wrong! But for those who suffer from clinical seasonal affective disorder, the complications can be serious. SAD can interfere with your work and social life, and in severe cases, even lead to thoughts of death and suicide.

Mental health professionals follow specific guidelines for diagnosing SAD, including the severity of symptoms and seasonal recurrence for at least two consecutive years. They estimate about one in 20 American adults suffer from SAD, with millions more experiencing some lesser form of the “winter blues”. 

SAD is more common in women than men, usually begins in young adulthood, and is more frequent among people who live in northern regions of the country—especially those who relocated from sunnier climates. 

What causes SAD?

Sunlight, neurochemicals, and circadian rhythms all play a part in whether an individual experiences SAD—and similar to other types of depression, genetic predispositions. Understanding what causes this syndrome will help you understand how to best treat it. 

Sunlight, serotonin, and melatonin

While we don’t fully understand the exact mechanisms behind SAD, we do know sunshine is key. We also know sunlight plays a role in how your skin produces vitamin D. Research suggests that vitamin D may impact how your brain produces two important chemicals: serotonin and melatonin. 

Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter—a kind of “chemical messenger” that sends information and instructions throughout your brain and body and helps regulate your mood. If you experience SAD, that regulation doesn’t function properly during the winter months when you get less sunlight and less vitamin D, leading to lower levels of serotonin production. 

Melatonin is a hormone that helps keep your sleeping cycle on track. When you produce too much melatonin, you feel sleepy and low-energy, even if you’ve got a solid eight hours of slumber. And you guessed it—research suggests that people with SAD produce too much melatonin. 

To sum this all up: SAD and sunlight go hand-in-hand. You absorb sunlight through your skin, helping you produce vitamin D and serotonin and regulating your production of melatonin. When days get short, and we stay inside, you don’t get as much sunlight. For people vulnerable to SAD, that can lead to depressive symptoms. 

Circadian rhythms

The frustrating thing about SAD is that when you’re suffering from the disorder, all you want to do is hide under the covers all day. But this behavior is precisely what makes the cycle worse, because you’re further disrupting your natural circadian rhythms. 

“Circadian” simply means “about a day” in Latin—it’s how your body follows a 24-hour cycle of waking, eating, and sleeping. Anyone who’s flown to a faraway time zone knows exactly what it feels like when jet lag disrupts your circadian rhythms. Your body needs time to catch up to the new light-and-dark patterns, so you’re wide awake at 2 a.m. and falling asleep during your afternoon museum tour. 

In the case of SAD, when the days are short, you don’t get much sunlight, and your brain isn’t producing enough serotonin or too much melatonin, your circadian rhythms will be affected. 

Fortunately, your circadian rhythms can be influenced by your environment so that you can counteract some of this less-than-ideal neuroscience with intentional behavior changes. (More on that in a minute.)

What you can do about SAD

If you suspect you’re experiencing the symptoms of SAD, the happy news is that there are several treatment options available: light therapy, talk therapy, medication, and a whole range of coping behaviors.  

Light therapy 

We can’t all move to San Diego, but we can simulate sunlight through a device called a lightbox, in a practice known as light therapy or phototherapy. 

good lightbox will give off at least 10,000 lux, about 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor lights. Lightboxes have plastic screens that filter out harmful UV rays, unlike tanning beds, and you can easily purchase them online. 

Dr. Norman Rosenthal, who coined the term “SAD” in his 1984 study, recommends sitting near a good-sized lightbox (one foot by one-and-a-half feet) for about 20-30 minutes every morning, ideally placed with the light shining down on you from above—just like natural sunlight. 

Lightboxes may not work for everyone, but when they’re effective, they tend to work quickly. Research shows that most people start to feel a difference between just a few days and two weeks. 

If you have a history of eye sensitivity, diabetes, or bipolar disorder, consult with a doctor before using a lightbox to avoid potential side effects.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Good old-fashioned “talk therapy”, also known as cognitive behavioral therapy, is another effective treatment for SAD. There’s even a specific adaptation, CBT-SAD, that focuses on reframing negative thoughts and managing the day-to-day realities of living with SAD. 

During this time of COVID-19, virtual therapy visits or group sessions may be a good choice. 

While ZOOM+Care doesn’t offer long-term talk therapy, we can help you get started on your journey. Our mental health specialists can give excellent guidance, support you with medication management, and provide counseling referrals if needed. Talk to a ZOOM+Care Mental Health specialist today!

Medication and supplements

In some cases, antidepressant medications that increase serotonin levels, called SSRIs, can be used to treat SAD—although they can cause side effects, and it could take weeks before you start to notice a difference in your mood. 

A ZOOM+Care specialist can help you determine if treating SAD through medication is the right path forward. 

Coping with SAD

In addition to therapies or medications, you can also impact the severity of SAD symptoms through your own behavior—meaningful but simple changes you can make to your routine to help regulate your mood and internal clock. 

Let there be light

Get as much sunlight as possible, especially in the mornings. Even on a cloudy day, taking a 15 to 30-minute walk outside can make a big difference. Other ways to increase your light exposure: move your desk or favorite chair close to a window, open your blinds, trim away sun-blocking branches or bushes outside, and clean your panes. 

Sunlight is key to SAD, and every little bit helps. 

Move your body

Note that we didn’t say “exercise”, which can be intimidating. Your goal isn’t to look like the next Marvel action star. You just need to move your body enough to help you feel awake and stimulate endorphins, the so-called “feel-good” chemicals your brain produces when you exercise. Research shows that even low-impact movements like stretching, walking, and gentle yoga can help reduce depression—as long as you do it consistently. (For bonus benefits, use a lightbox during indoor exercise!)

Pay a visit to Mother Nature 

Don’t feel like working up a sweat? You’re in luck. It turns out there’s a less strenuous way to combat SAD—forest bathing. 

Before you pack your swimsuit, we should specify that forest bathing isn’t an actual bath. Rather, it’s the act of spending time outdoors, slowing down, and becoming immersed in the natural environment. According to a recent study, the benefits of forest bathing include relaxation, less stress, and decreased depression, anxiety, and anger. 

Keep a sleep routine

Staying up late or sleeping in on the weekends can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythms, so as much as possible, stick to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time through the winter months. Nightly rituals like a cup of herbal tea before bed or a sunrise-simulating alarm clock can help. 

Fuel your brain through food

Since your goal this winter is to produce more serotonin and vitamin D, eat meals and snacks that will help—research suggests more whole grains, healthy fats, fish, veggies, and fruits, paired with less sugar and processed carbs.

Curb your carb cravings

If you’re dealing with SAD, though, you’ll likely crave sweet and starchy foods—ones that will only cause your blood sugar to spike and crash, making your energy levels more unstable. 

Manage your cravings by savoring treats during outings or special occasions, like a long walk to your neighborhood coffee shop for a holiday latte, or meeting a friend for a social-distanced hot cocoa. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods to lower your chance of carb-heavy binges on bad days. 

Eat at consistent times

When it comes to circadian rhythms, it’s not just what you eat, but when you eat, that matters. If you can, eat breakfast at a consistent time every day, and stop eating a few hours before your bedtime. These signals (or lack thereof) will help your body know when it’s time to wake up and time to go to sleep. 

Reduce stressors

You can’t always control how you feel, but you can avoid triggers that you know make you feel worse. During this tumultuous year, that might mean limiting your news consumption to 30 minutes a day, banning your phone from your bedroom, or deleting addictive social media apps altogether. 

Ask for social support 

Socializing is not going to come naturally this winter, but like all types of depression, having support from loved ones will help make it easier to cope with SAD. 

On a good day, tell trusted family members or friends that you’re dealing with SAD, and ask them to check in with you when you go quiet. Find an accountability buddy to help stick to your movement goals. Schedule those awkward virtual hangouts in advance. (You’ll cancel sometimes, and that’s okay.)

Bottom line: be kind to yourself, and take it a day at a time. 

SAD is not the only mental health stressor we’re facing this winter. With COVID-19 in our midst, we’re facing intense holiday blues—financial strain, missing our friends, no family feasts or Macy’s Day parade. While it’s okay to feel sad, anxious, and angry about these losses, it’s important to recognize when your seasonal blues become serious. If you need a professional’s help, we’re here to listen, all year ’round. Talk to a Mental Health specialist today, either virtual or IRL. 

Why Men Don’t Like Going to the Doctor—and How ZOOM+Care Can Help

Man talking to a doctor at ZOOM+Care about men's health and Movember.

This article is in celebration of the 2020 Movember campaign. The Movember Foundation helps raise  awareness for testicular and prostate cancer, but also focuses on other aspects of men’s  mental—and overall—well-being. 

Trigger warning: the following content contains information on suicide. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please visit The Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK.

As much as we hate (read: loathe, abhor) gender stereotypes, there’s one cliché that holds true: Men avoid the doctor like the plague.

Compared with women, self-identified males are half as likely to see a doctor over a two-year time period. Compounding this behavior, they frequently leave prescriptions unfilled and skip their recommended medical screenings. When men wind up in the hospital, it’s more likely to be from severe issues such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and diabetes—conditions that could easily be uncovered through routine, preventative care. 

Grimmer still? Compared to women, men die five years sooner, live with more years of bad health, and—according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention—are nearly four times more likely to complete suicide. 

Looking at the data, it’s abundantly clear that men don’t like going to the doctor. (So much, in fact, that 72 percent of them would rather clean a toilet then get a check-up.) The real question is why they hate it.

A 2016 survey commissioned by Orlando Health may hold some answers. According to the results, “I’m too busy” (22%) is the number one excuse men give for skipping the doctor. Other top answers include fear of finding out something that may be wrong (21%), followed by discomfort with specific physical exams, such as prostate checks (18%). 

Our societal view of masculinity may also be to blame.

Traditional gender roles dictate that men be strong and resilient; they’re taught to reject their weaknesses and hide their vulnerability. Pretty much everything about a doctor’s office is in opposition to masculine norms, and because of this, men’s anxieties about seeking care may be intensified. (An idea backed by research conducted at Rutgers University in 2016.)

Mental health concerns are compounded by COVID.

According to research conducted by the Movember organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected men’s mental health.

The survey found that 88% of U.S. men questioned thought it was helpful when people checked in on their mental health. Unfortunately, nearly half of the respondents said no one has asked how they’re coping during COVID-19.

Furthermore, 21% of male respondents said their mental health had worsened compared with before COVID-19. Twenty-seven percent admitted they felt lonely more often than before the outbreak.

While sobering, Movember’s survey is an excellent reminder to ask the men in your life how they’re doing, even if they seem fine on the outside. With so many men isolated and disconnected from their usual support networks, checking in is more critical than ever.

How can ZOOM+Care help close the men’s health gap? 

Convenience is key. 

Sixty-one percent of men say they would be more likely to go to the doctor if it was convenient.  

By offering same-day, no-wait visits (both inside and outside of work hours), we make it easy for people of all genders to get care. Only have 30 minutes on your lunch break? No problem. We can get you in and out with time to spare—and meds in hand. 

Using tech to avoid embarrassment.

Beyond being busy, men often forgo treatment because that they’re embarrassed—or simply reluctant—to talk about their health issues.

Our VideoCare™ and ChatCare™ features let patients connect with a provider without setting foot in a doctor’s office—meaning they’re answering questions privately, rather than confessing uncomfortable secrets in person, in an unfamiliar setting. 

VideoCare™ is the perfect choice for first-time patients, and those seeking treatment for chronic ailments, preventative care, and mental health concerns.

ChatCare™  is great for minor illnesses such as allergic rhinitis, sinus infections, colds, and coughs. 

And because it’s easy to refill prescriptions through ChatCare™ and VideoCare™, both can help address the issue of men skipping their meds, too. 

Stamping out stigma.

Up to 41% of adults forego treatment for mental health concerns due to stigma and fear of discrimination. For men—many of whom have been told to “man up” and “shake it off” their whole lives—accessing mental health resources can be particularly daunting, as it goes against cultural expectations. 

We want to make mental healthcare convenient and judgement-free—for men, and for anyone who is nervous about seeking help. Our philosophy is that mental illness is like any other medical illness—it’s no more shameful than a sore throat or a broken bone. As Dr. Erik Vanderlip, our Chief Medical Officer likes to say, “Just like you’d go to the doctor for a sprained ankle, you can see a Mental Health Care professional for an assessment.”

Integration is essential.

Due to growing demand, there’s been an increase in online health retailers and specialty clinics that focus on men’s health concerns—erectile dysfunction and low testosterone being the most common.  These conditions, however, are typically multifactorial. Psychological causes such as depression—and physical factors such as obesity and diabetes—can mimic the same symptoms. For the best treatment, it’s crucial to obtain a high-quality, comprehensive evaluation. 

At ZOOM+Care, we do it all—conveniently, and with discretion.

Do your part for Movember.

Men are our fathers, sons, partners, friends, uncles, and brothers. Let’s work together to create a cultural shift where they don’t find it difficult (or embarrassing) to seek out medical care. This month and every month, encourage men’s health initiatives, foster healthy discussions, and—most importantly—let the men in your life know that we love them, and that their health matters. 

Don’t postpone your care, dudes. Schedule a same-day, no-wait visit today!

Flu, Cold or COVID? A Simple Guide to Symptoms

Woman holding a tissue against a blue background, wondering she she has the flu, a cold, or COVID.

Dealing with the sniffles or lingering cough is annoying at the best of times. During a global pandemic, brought on by a respiratory illness with flu-like symptoms? Downright stressful. 

And the tricky thing about identifying COVID-19 is that it presents a really wide range of symptoms. Some cases involve no symptoms whatsoever, mild cases may only mean a cough or runny nose, moderate cases can feel a lot like the flu, and severe cases can require hospitalization. Usually, you’ll need to take a test to know for sure if you’ve been infected.

While it’s important to take any possibility of COVID-19 seriously to avoid spreading the virus, we don’t want you to panic. If you (or a loved one) are feeling unwell, the best approach—as always—is to take a calming breath and start with the science. 

In this post, we’ll go over the usual symptoms, timing, and recommended next steps for the three likely culprits: the common cold, the flu, and COVID-19. 

The symptom unique to COVID-19

Let’s get this one out of the way. The CDC reports that there’s really only one symptom that’s mostly specific to COVID-19, compared to the common cold and flu: losing your sense of smell or taste

“There are many symptoms of a ‘common cold,’ flu and COVID-19 that overlap, including fever, sneezing, cough and fatigue,” epidemiologist Dr. Sadiya Khan recently told Northwestern University. “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.”

If you can’t detect strong aromas like coffee or garlic, and you’re experiencing a fever and/or a persistent cough, stay home, isolate yourself, and set up a video visit at to get safe and easy testing. 

Shared symptoms for the flu and COVID-19

While COVID-19 is difficult to identify from symptoms alone, it’s usually easier to tell a cold from the flu, because colds don’t tend to involve severe body aches or fever. If you’re running a fever or feeling that familiar “I got hit by a truck” fatigue, it’s likely the flu or COVID-19. (Sorry.) 

That said, the following symptoms are common for all three viruses:

  • Cough (usually milder with the cold, usually deep or dry with COVID-19)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat (more common in the cold than the flu or COVID)
  • Runny or stuffy nose (more common with the cold, rarely the only symptom for the flu)

Symptoms that often or sometimes appear in both COVID-19 and the flu, but rarely with a cold, include:

  • Fever (or feeling feverish, like the chills)
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache 
  • Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea (more common in children than adults, and more common with the flu than COVID-19)

Note that many mild cases of COVID-19 only involve a runny nose or congestion—no fever ever appears. So don’t assume you just have a cold if a sniffle or stuffy nose is your only symptom. You could still be infected with COVID-19, and run the risk of getting others seriously ill.

Common symptoms of the common cold

The good news: sneezing, watery eyes, and post-nasal drip are usually symptoms of a cold or allergies. Sometimes, they’ll appear with the flu. They’re even less common with COVID-19, but not impossible, because COVID can display a wide range of symptoms and we’re still learning about this new virus.

Timing of symptoms 

Don’t just pay attention to what symptoms you experience—notice when you start to feel unwell, how quickly they appear after possible exposure, and how long they last.

  • Cold symptoms usually show up within 2 to 3 days of infection, and they tend to appear gradually. 
  • Flu symptoms usually begin about 1 to 4 days after you’ve been infected by the virus, and tend to show up suddenly.
  • COVID-19 symptoms, if they appear at all, typically show up 5 to 7 days after exposure—but can begin as early as 2 days or as late as 14. 

Symptoms for all three viruses can last for a few weeks, but cold and flu symptoms usually get better over time. If your symptoms continue to worsen after a week, go to to schedule a remote COVID-19 screening. 

What to do if you show symptoms of COVID-19

If you show any of the above symptoms of COVID-19, you should schedule a COVID screening  right away. If you know you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 by being in close contact (defined as 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period) with someone who tests positive, even if you have zero symptoms, you should isolate yourself and call your doctor. 

Red flags for COVID-19

We’ve focused mostly on common and mild symptoms, but if you or a loved one experiences any of the following, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing or gasping for air
  • Blue or purple lips or face
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure 
  • New confusion
  • Inability to stay awake or conscious 

Bottom line: play it safe, but don’t panic

We know for sure that COVID-19 is very contagious and we don’t yet have a vaccine. Testing can help you know for sure if you have the virus, but false negatives are frequent, so play it safe. If you show any symptoms, wear a mask at all times, avoid unnecessary contact with others (even in your household), wash your hands frequently, and call your doctor to discuss your specific symptoms and circumstances. 

Finally, don’t panic. Your sniffles are statistically unlikely to land you in the hospital, but heightened stress levels can take a toll. That’s why we’re here to help you deal with COVID-19 concerns of all kinds, whenever you need us.

Too Spooked by Trick-Or-Treating? Try These COVID-Safe Halloween Activities Instead.

Tips for a COVID-Safe Halloween

Like all holidays, Halloween is a bit more complicated during a global pandemic. Close-quarters activities like trick-or-treating are now much more trick than treat. Medical experts agree—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have categorized traditional trick-or-treating as a high-risk activity for COVID-19 and Influenza infection. Unfortunately, the version of this Halloween tradition most of us know and love simply isn’t safe this year.

While Halloween may not feel the same, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring for you and your kids. There are plenty of ways to have a frightful and delightful holiday while keeping your friends, family, and neighbors safe. Keep reading for some fun, COVID-safe Halloween activities:

Find the Halloween spirit (with a scavenger hunt).

Let’s be honest: Part of the fun of trick-or-treating is the “treat” part. But the pandemic doesn’t mean your kids have to give up their sugar high (as tempting as that may sound). There are still fun ways for your little one to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Try approaching trick-or-treating this year much like you’d organize an Easter egg hunt. Hide Halloween candy around the house and yard, along with clues leading to the next ones. Get creative with your prizes and clues, and this activity will also be fun for parents. Better yet, coordinate with other parents in your neighborhood to create a socially distanced hunt that multiple kids can safely participate in.

Scare packages.

Another way to keep the treats flowing is by putting together “scare packages.” Stock up on some Halloween goodies and put together small gift bags that you can drop off with friends and family. You can still see friends from a safe distance when you drop off the scare packages—and show off your creative costumes. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing any treats you plan on sharing with others.

Give it a gourd.

Pumpkin carving is both a classic and COVID-safe Halloween activity. It’s an excellent activity for kids and can also work as a socially distanced backyard activity with friends and family if the weather is nice enough. Try organizing a pumpkin carving contest with your neighbors or family members. If you’re separated geographically, you can even carve pumpkins over a video call and virtually share your artistic prowess.

Virtual Costume Party

One silver lining of doing so much socializing over the internet is that geography doesn’t have to separate us. Try connecting with friends who you normally couldn’t trick-or-treat with and hold a virtual costume party. You can even coordinate with other families in advance to plan special prizes, treats, activities, and games for the kids.

Horror decor.

We all have that neighbor who really leans into decorating their home during the Halloween season. While you don’t have to go that overboard, decking out your place with cobwebs, fake headstones, or other decorative items is a great way to get in the Halloween spirit. This kid-friendly activity engages their creativity and keeps them focused on something other than candy. Order some supplies online, or safely visit a local crafts store to stock up. Decorating your home is a festive family activity that keeps everyone safe and sufficiently spooked.

Masks on masks.

Keep in mind that your child’s Darth Vader mask won’t help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and Influenza. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask under any costume mask. If your kids are participating in outdoor, socially distanced Halloween activities, make sure that they are wearing proper masks underneath their costumes—and that there is at least six feet of space between them and others at all times.

From all of us at ZOOM+Care, have a happy and COVID-safe Halloween!

If you’re frightened by COVID-19 and Influenza this Halloween, ZOOM+Care is here to help. We offer five-minute flu shots and COVID-19 testing. Schedule a visit today for a safe (and scary) Halloween.

On the Fence about the Flu Shot? Read Our FAQ.

Each fall, doctors and public health officials across the country urge virtually every American to get a flu shot. But, despite their best efforts, only about 50% will heed their advice. 

This begs the question: what’s the deal with our low vaccination rates?

A handful of myths and misconceptions about the flu shot may be partly to blame.

Because it’s super-duper important to get vaccinated this year, we wanted answer all of your flu shot questions and ease any concerns you may have.

We sat down with Thad Mick, ZOOM+Care’s Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs, to talk flu shot myths, common vaccination concerns, the importance of getting the shot this year, and more.

Thad Mick, Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs at ZOOM+Care.

Hi Thad! Thanks for Talking with us Today.

With COVID-19 still circulating, this flu season is a little different. When would you recommend people get their flu shots this year?


There is no better time to protect yourself, your family, and your community from flu than right now. The CDC, and the broader medical community, recommend receiving your flu vaccine in the early fall before the flu virus begins circulating broadly. It takes about two weeks to develop a full immune response after the vaccine, so it is better to get protected now rather than wait.

We’ve heard that it’s Extra important to get a flu shot this year. Can you tell us why?

With COVID-19 infection rates on the rise, there have been numerous discussions within the medical community about the potential for a “twindemic.” While a vaccine for COVID-19 is not available today, we do have a safe and effective vaccine to prevent influenza.  

We must use the tools we have available to protect our friends and family and reduce the use of our critical healthcare systems. Flu vaccines are an important tool to limit the amount of respiratory illness circulating in our community. When we receive a flu vaccine, we do our part to protect our communities and ensure we have the much-needed space available in our hospitals and care centers to support those who need it most.  

Is there any concern about the availability of vaccines this year?

Vaccine manufacturers have committed to supplying almost 200 million doses of flu vaccines this season. While there were some early reports of isolated flu vaccine shortages, most communities now have adequate vaccine supplies.   

Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness about flu prevention and general preventative public health measures?

The pandemic has most definitely created an environment of individual social responsibility and awareness around our actions and roles in protecting our community. Each of us recognizes, more than ever, how we can help maintain a safe and protected space with vigilant hand hygiene, social distancing, face coverings, and flu vaccinations.

With each of us doing our part, we can collectively reduce the impact of this pandemic.

When it feels like so much is out of our control these days, it is important to take hold of those areas in our life that we can influence, especially when it comes to protecting our health—and that of our friends and family. “

Thad Mick, Vice President of Pharmaceutical Programs

can the flu shot put you at higher risk for contracting COVID-19? 

There is a ton of misinformation surfacing on social media platforms these days. The truth is that there has not been a single study to date that has demonstrated any additional risk of contracting COVID-19 following a flu vaccine.  

The real concern is a potential co-infection with influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19. Should you become infected with influenza, a compromised immune system may allow CoV-2 to have a more significant impact on your health, leading to more severe symptoms or longer recovery time.

A lot of people want to avoid the doctor’s office right now due to COVID-19. What is ZOOM+Care to make getting a flu shot safe? 

We have always maintained clean, safe, uncrowded clinics that provide on-demand, quality care efficiently. This flu season, we have implemented even more rigorous standards to clean our clinics, ensure our staff is properly attired in PPE to protect them and you, eliminate gathering in our reception area and provide the fastest flu vaccine visit available.

Besides safety, what are some other reasons to get the flu shot at ZOOM+Care? 

We have worked hard to develop a flu vaccination destination that eliminates each of the barriers that exist today in most healthcare facilities.  

We have created a system that allows for on-demand, same-day scheduling for your flu vaccine. No need to plan days or weeks ahead to reserve limited space/time for a flu shot. 

With your appointment booked, all you need to do is show up on time to our crowd-less reception area, complete a quick health survey, and receive your vaccine in a clean private room.  

You will be in and out of your ZOOM+Care flu shot visit in less than five minutes. 

Each year I conduct a secret shopper exercise to test our systems and look for opportunities for improvement. This year I went online at 11:30, booked an appointment during my lunch hour at 12:15, walked into the clinic at 12:14, and left the clinic at 12:18 after getting my shot. The entire experience was less than five minutes.

Are there side effects of the flu vaccine? How common are these side effects? 

Some people report having mild reactions to the flu shot. The most common side effects from flu shots include soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the site of the shot, low-grade fever or headache, and mild muscle aches. 

For those who experience these side effects, they usually begin soon after the shot and only last 1-2 days.

How long does the flu vaccine last?

 It takes about two weeks to develop a full immune response after the vaccine. Immunity duration can vary. For most people, it lasts for six to eight months, although it may last longer for some. 

How effective is this year’s vaccine? 

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year, often hovering between 40%-60%. Two primary factors impact the vaccine’s effectiveness: the viral match between the vaccine and the circulating viral strain(s) and the demographics and health status of those vaccinated. 

Even in years when the vaccine’s effectiveness falls to the lower side of this range, benefits are realized when large portions of the population are vaccinated. These include fewer flu-related deaths, reduced severity of symptoms by those who are vaccinated and get sick, and a decline in the number of hospitalizations from the flu.

Say someone never gets the flu. Why should they bother to get a flu shot?

Just because you have not been infected with influenza in the past, don’t fool yourself into thinking you are immune to the flu virus or any other. The odds are that you have just been lucky enough to avoid exposure to some of the more virulent strains of the virus that have circulated in the past. The CDC, and every reputable healthcare expert, recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive a flu vaccine this year.  

Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever—not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help protect those around you and conserve potentially scarce health care resources. It is one of the best things we can do to protect our communities and keep hospital beds free for those who need them during this pandemic.    

Anything else you’d like to add? 

When it feels like so much is out of our control these days, it is important to take hold of those areas in our life that we can influence, especially when it comes to protecting our health—and that of our friends and family.  

With same-day appointments, at a clean, safe, uncrowded clinic that require less than five minutes, at low to no out of pocket cost, there is absolutely no reason to avoid the flu shot; especially this year.

Little pinch. Big payoff. For your best shot at a flu-free fall and winter, get vaccinated at any of our neighborhood clinics today.

Working from Home is a Pain in the Neck. These Ergonomic Dos and Don’ts Can Help.

Spine on blue background. Follow these ergonomic tips while working at home to avoid neck and back pain.

Remote work has its perks, but ergonomics isn’t one of them. 

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, millions of Americans are still working from home, spending countless (pantless) hours on the couch, hunched over a tiny laptop screen. 

And while it may seem cozy to work from your sofa or bed, you could be setting yourself up for potential musculoskeletal injuries—carpal tunnel, tendonitis, muscle sprain, and lower back and neck pain, to name a few. 

The good news is, there are several ways to create a comfy-yet-functional work set up and prevent long-term damage to your body.

If you’re starting to feel pains of WFH life (read: neck or back pain, swollen legs or feet, or numbness and tingling in the fingers), now is the time to make changes to your workspace.

As ZOOM+Care’s Dr. Michael Lell, DC says, “Taking the time to make little changes like this saves a lot of time and headache in the future. It’s easier to adjust your chair than suffer from daily neck pain.”

Keep scrolling for some chiropractor-approved do’s and don’ts of working at home: 

DON’T hunch over your laptop. 

Doing so for 40+ hours a week can lead to back, shoulder, and neck strain. If you can, use a laptop riser or an external monitor while working.

As a rule of thumb, your eye line should be level with the top of your computer monitor.

If you place your laptop on a riser, consider using a separate mouse and keyboard as well. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees while typing—which can be tricky to achieve if your laptop is elevated. 

That reminds us: DO use the 90-degree rule. 

Sitting seems like a tough thing to screw up, but alas—there is a “right” way to sit while working at your computer. 

To ensure proper alignment of your arms and legs while sitting, think 90-90-90. Sitting with a 90-degree angle at the elbows, hips, and knees allows for the least physical strain in a seated position.

DON’T dangle your feet. 

During the workday, try to keep both of your feet flat on the floor as much as you can. 

When you plant your feet on the ground, you’re stable. When you dangle them, you can throw off the arch in your lower back, which can eventually lead to back pain. 

Don’t pull your feet back underneath your chair, either—this puts pressure under your thighs, which restricts blood flow to your lower legs and increases your risk of complications, such as deep vein thrombosis.

If your feet don’t reach the floor, try placing them on a footrest, box, or pile of books. To reduce stress on your lumbar spine, make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor with your hips slightly higher than your knees.

DO incorporate standing.  

Miss your standing desk? It’s no wonder: Working while standing is linked to decreased lower and upper back pain and neck pain. As an added bonus, alternating between sitting and standing can also increase your productivity and focus.

While most of us can’t shell out for high-end office furniture, we can improvise. You can hack together a standing setup with a few boxes or books, or even an ironing board.

If you go DIY with your standing desk, just make sure you pay attention to some basic ergonomic guidelines—namely, your screen’s height. Your monitor should be high enough so that you’re looking straight ahead and not looking down or hunching over to see the screen. 

DO find a supportive chair: 

When it comes to WFH life, you need a sound support system—and by that, we mean a good, sturdy office chair. 

An ideal office chair has adjustable options for height and depth, recline, and lumbar support—but we know not everyone has access to such ergonomic luxuries. 

If you don’t have a chair with built-in lumbar support, you can DIY your way to an ergonomically correct seating situation. 

The first step is to pay attention to how you sit. 

Lean back in your chair so that some of your body weight is supported by the chair back.

If your chair lacks good lower-back support, place a cushion or rolled-up towel behind your lower back. (It’s a slightly less effective substitute for an ergonomic chair, but it’s way better than nothing!)

Many office chairs have built-in neck support, which is something you’re less likely to have at home.

To prevent tightness and pain, try incorporating neck exercises throughout the day.  

Here are three easy ones: 

Chin-to-Chest Stretch.

  • Gently look downward, bringing your head close to your chest until you can feel the stretch in the back of your neck.
  • Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then slowly and release.

Side-to-Side Stretch. 

 Keep your head over your shoulders and make sure your back is straight. Gently turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch in the side of your neck and shoulder. Hold for ten to 15 seconds, then repeat the process to the left.

Side-Tilt Stretch. 

  • Very gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder, as if you’re trying to touch it with your ear. Stop when you feel the stretch. You’re trying to stretch the muscles in your neck, so don’t raise your shoulder to meet your head. 
  • Hold the stretch for five to ten seconds, then return to the start position.
  • Repeat on your left side. 

DON’T use a squishy wrist rest.

They may seem like they’re providing support, but ergonomics experts say that these accessories can increase stress on your wrists. 

Putting anything under your wrist while you work can add compression on the finger flexor tendons and on the median nerve, which can actually up your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

DO incorporate movement and stretches into your workday.

Ah, yes. Remember the days when we’d commute to the office? Walk to and from meetings? Take a brisk stroll on our way to pick up lunch, perhaps? Now we’re lucky if we walk to the kitchen a few times a day for a snack. 

It should go without saying, but—even if we’re not in the office, getting off our backsides and moving throughout the day is still important. 

Do small things to keep your body moving throughout the workday. Take phone calls standing up, set an alarm every 30 to 60 seconds to remind you to move, stand up often, take frequent water breaks, and alternate between working standing up and sitting.

Additionally, consider incorporating stretches into your daily routine. 

Jennifer Naughton, a Doctor of Physical Therapy here at ZOOM+Care, has a few recommendations.

First up is a pectoral stretch—a simple exercise that can help make it easier for you to attain and maintain proper posture.

Towel Chest Stretch. 

  • Start by grabbing a towel or a strap. 
  • Stand up straight, paying close attention to your posture. Hold the towel or strap behind your back.
  • Slowly lift the towel behind you, holding the ends with both hands.
  • Use the towel to pull your shoulders into extension. You should feel a stretch in the front of your chest. Squeeze the shoulder blades together to maximize the stretch.
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, and then relax.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Another stretch Dr. Naughton recommends for folks working from home is a hip flexor stretch. 

Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch 

  • Start on a soft surface, like a yoga mat or carpet.
  • Next, kneel on your left knee. Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you with your knee bent.
  • Lean forward, stretching your left hip toward the floor.
  • Squeeze the muscles in your buttocks. This will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more!
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds. 
  • Switch sides, then repeat. 

DO limit the time spent working on your couch or bed. 

We know they’re super cozy, but the couch and bed are among the worst places to work. 

A sofa might feel comfy initially, but it can lead to pain in your lower back and neck. That’s because sitting on a couch encourages you to slump, round your shoulders, and put your head forward—which puts a lot more strain on your body.

While the couch is not your WFH friend, a bed is even worse. Why?

Unless you sit on the edge of your bed with your feet flat on the floor, you either have to cross your legs or extend them horizontally, using them as support for your laptop. That’s way too low for optimal screen viewing, causing you to slump and hunch over. 

If your bed is your only option, put a pillow behind your back to rest against the headboard, then put your laptop on a cushion in your lap. 

Are you starting to feel the pains of working from home? Our Bodyworks teams have your back. We offer same-day Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, and Medical Message visits. Schedule today.  

Here’s What You Need to Know about Getting a Flu Shot during a Pandemic

What you need to know about getting a flu shot while COVID is still happening.

With COVID-19 still making daily headlines, flu season may seem insignificant, small, and far away.

But trust us when we say—it’s coming, and it’s more important than ever to prepare for it. 

With a potential “twindemic” looming, health experts urge people to get a flu shot ASAP. Not only can getting vaccinated help preserve hospital beds, staff, and medical resources, but it can help your year suck a little bit less. (Seriously, who wants to add “catching the flu” to the list of reasons why 2020 can just see itself out?)

Since this flu season is unlike any other, you probably have all kinds of questions—and we’re here to answer them. Here’s what you need to know about getting vaccinated during a global pandemic. 

The flu and COVID-19 are basically the same, right?

COVID-19 and the flu are respiratory viruses, and they have similar symptoms. However, the two illnesses are very different.

While both cause fatigue, coughing, and fever, COVID-19 can have a wide range of symptoms, including loss of smell and severe breathing problems. 

Statistically, COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu. The flu causes an average of 38,000 deaths each year in the U.S. In comparison, there have been over 200,000 deaths related to COVID-19 in the US along so far.

Why is the flu shot so important this year? 

There are a couple of (very) good reasons to get your flu shot this year, for both personal and public health reasons. 

Let’s start with the personal. Because different viruses cause the flu and COVID-19, there’s a possibility of co-infection. Yes—that means you can have both at the same time. 

Information on COVID‐19 and influenza co-infection is limited, and public health experts don’t know how dangerous it may be. But, chances are, it’s not great.

“Getting a flu shot lowers the chances you’ll get influenza—and if you do, it will most likely be a milder infection,” says ZOOM+Care CMO, Dr. Vanderlip. “We have no idea what co-infection with flu and COVID would be like, but a flu vaccine reduces your chances of finding out. Plus, getting vaccinated helps limit the spread of coronavirus by preventing extra trips to the doctor.” 

Another reason to get the jab? If we can prevent people from catching the flu, we can ease the burden on our healthcare system. That way, our hospitals are free and clear to help COVID-19 patients.

I’ve heard it’s unsafe to get the flu shot this year. Is that true? 

The flu isn’t probably isn’t your biggest worry right now, and that’s understandable. We know it’s tempting to avoid the doctor’s office for fear of COVID-19, but getting your flu shot is still important. 

From extra cleaning precautions to strict social distancing measures, doctors are taking extra precautions to keep people safe while getting their flu shot. 

“When you schedule a flu shot at Zoom, you’re in and out in five minutes, and you have minimal contact with others during your visit,” says Dr. Mark Zeiter, ZOOM+Care’s Medical Director of Acute Care Services.  “We also ask that patients schedule ahead, which means the waiting room is empty or doesn’t even exist.” 

We also ask that patients wear masks during their visit, and follow all social distancing guidelines.

One important thing to note: Don’t get the flu shot if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are currently experiencing symptoms. In that case, wait until you’re ten days symptom-free or have a negative COVID-19 test.

Can the flu shot protect me from COVID-19?

The flu and COVID-19 are different illnesses, so the flu shot won’t protect you against the coronavirus. That said, getting vaccinated has many benefits. 

“For starters, the flu shot can help prevent unnecessary trips to the doctor,” says Dr. Vanderlip.  

That’s important since more trips to the doctor mean more risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

 “The vaccine can also reduce the severity of the flu if you do happen to become infected. Our flu shot protects against four strains of the flu virus.” Vanderlip adds. 

According to Dr. Mark Zeiter, flu vaccine can have long-term health benefits, too.

 “There is evidence that flu vaccination offers a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. The more years you get the flu shot, the less likely you are to get Alzheimer’s, says Zeitzer. “There is also evidence that the more years you get the flu vaccination, the less likely you are to get the flu overall—so there is a cumulative effect.” 

Will the flu shot increase my risk of getting COVID-19? 

No. The two diseases are different, so being immunized for one does not make you more vulnerable to the other. There’s no evidence connecting the flu shot, or other vaccines, with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

Will wearing a mask and practicing social distancing help stop the spread of the flu? 

The pandemic has underscored the importance of handwashing, sanitizing, masking, and social distancing—measures which also curb the spread of flu. According to CDC director Robert Redfield, if the public continues to follow health experts’ advice, we could have the “best flu season” to date.

Just take a look at the Southern Hemisphere. Australia is a good predictor of our flu season, and this year, there were just over 21,000 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases. Last year in the same period, there were over 247,000. Experts credit extra precautions, such as masking, social distancing, sanitizing, and good vaccination rate for the mild flu season in the Southern Hemisphere. 

In other words, keep wearing your mask, washing your hands, and get your flu shot! 

Can I get the vaccine at any time? 

You can, but we don’t recommend waiting. 

“Now is the time to get the flu shot, because we don’t know when the flu wave will be coming,” says Dr. Vanderlip. 

Seasonal flu outbreaks can start in October, so it’s best to get your flu shot ASAP. 

Have concerns about the safety and efficacy of the flu shot? Here are 7 common myths—and facts to debunk them. If you’re ready to give flu season your best shot, schedule a 5-minute flu shot now.