INDIANAPOLIS — Local doctors are encouraging everyone to take a few minutes and go get their flu shot sometime soon. This flu season is expected to be bigger than the last few we have seen.

Dr. Robin Ledyard, the chief medical officer at Community Health Network, said flu cases from August and September show a rise. 

”If you look at it from August to October, in these two months period of time, we’ve had about a 25% increase in flu numbers across the Midwest for sure,” Dr. Ledyard said.

Doctors also prepare for the flu season by paying close attention to Australia and other countries that have already had their flu seasons.

”They were very busy. They had a lot more cases,” said Dr. John Christenson, the associate medical director at Riley Hospital for Children. “Especially if you compare to the previous year where we barely had any.”

The past two flu seasons have been lighter than usual through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors believe extra COVID precautions taken by so many, like masking and avoiding crowds, helped to prevent the spread of the flu, too. As those precautions have dropped, doctors worry about a worse flu situation this year.

”We are probably going to anticipate we’re going to see more cases this year than in years past,” Dr. Christenson said.

Another concern is with a few years of down flu seasons, this means there is less natural immunity from the flu in the general public.

”What I am afraid of is there is a large population out there that has no protection against this flu,” said Dr. Christenson.

However, helping to prevent the spread of the flu is easy and only involves doing a few things.

”You need to get that vaccine at least two or three weeks before that peak comes so you can be protected, and especially in young children, they require two doses,” Christenson said.

It’s also a good idea to pick up some of those older COVID habits again – keep a mask and hand sanitizer with you.

”Wear your mask if you think you’re going to be around someone that is sick or you are feeling slightly sick yourself,” Ledyard said.

And remember to keep an eye on those you’re around.

”Screen the people who come and visit your home,” Christenson said. “Your children and yourself shouldn’t be next to people who are sick.”

As far as a COVID resurgence in the colder months, both doctors said it’s possible, but we have the tools to keep it under control.

”Even if those COVID cases go up, hopefully the severity continues to be on that lower end,” Ledyard said.

Ledyard and Christenson expect flu cases to start picking up around thanksgiving.

If you are looking to get your flu vaccine, Community Hospital East is giving out flu shots for free on Oct. 21 from noon to 3 p.m. and Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to noon. Community Health Network will also have free flu shots at the Irvington Halloween Festival on Oct 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Riley Children’s Health will be giving out free flu shots for all ages at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum on November 3 and December 1.

Christenson said if you still need that flu vaccine and the latest COVID booster, you can get them at the same time. Just make sure to get them in different arms.