Why Flu Season Is Coming Early This Year

When your officemate starts coughing up a storm and your kids come home with a nose full of boogers, it signals that dreaded time of year: flu season is upon us, and earlier than ever this year. While masks are no longer mandated in many areas, you may want to consider bringing them out of retirement to stay healthy this flu season. Unfortunately, with a combination of pandemic fatigue, in-person return to school and the office, and new strains of viruses, this flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst ever.

According to Vox, you'll hear plenty of coughs and sniffles this season as the flu and RSV cases are massively on the rise. In addition, COVID-19 variants continue to grow as well, infecting and reinfecting people. The combination of illnesses has overwhelmed hospital workers that have not seen a reduction in patients since the pandemic began -– it looks like this season will bring no relief to hospitals that continue to treat an overwhelming number of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 cases. 

The flu is here to stay, thanks to a lack of social distancing measures

With most of life returning to "normal," large gatherings with no social distancing and working through illness have resulted in a quick spread of illnesses previously contained with COVID safety measures. CNBC reports that people are increasingly concerned about flu and RSV infection as they adjust to post-pandemic life. In addition, many have reported already catching viruses through their workplace as people are pressured to return to work while experiencing symptoms of illness.

During the pandemic, there was a significant decrease in cold and flu cases due to mask mandates and social distancing measures. Per Harvard School of Public Health, scientists were unaware of the outcomes of the flu once the pandemic-era measures were lifted. Unfortunately, the flu seems to be coming back in full force, infecting a large majority early on in the season. While flu season is not usually anticipated until December, the CDC reported an early start to flu season in some parts of the country –- the CDC's FluView report indicates that "flu activity is highest and increasing the most in the southeast and south-central parts of the United States." Experts encourage everyone to stay up to date on their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations to fully protect themselves from the anticipated spike. They also encourage wearing a mask in heavily populated areas to further prevent the spread of infection.

While you're navigating through your and your family's symptoms this season, The List created a guide to help you identify whether your kids have RSV, the flu, or COVID-19.