The sound of sneezing, coughing and runny noses means it’s officially flu season. The flu (influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness affecting your nose, throat and lungs. It’s caused by a different virus than the common cold, and while they share similar symptoms, the flu often lasts longer, can worsen chronic conditions, and can even cause death. The best way to prevent the flu is through vaccination, which is available as an injection or nasal spray.
When should you get the flu shot?
Although peak season is usually January or even beyond, most experts recommend vaccination as early as October and November to properly protect yourself. The flu shot is made up of three viruses that are expected to be the most prevalent that year, which is why even if you got the flu shot last year, it won’t protect you from the flu this year. It takes about two weeks after being vaccinated for the antibodies to fully develop.
Who should get the flu shot?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older, get a flu vaccine every year. For those of you who don’t want to get the vaccine, if you’re going to be around those considered to be “high-risk”, like young children or your grandparents, you can pass the flu onto them. You might get away with a mild cough or cold, but their immune system might not be as strong as yours, and their symptoms might be a lot more severe. Other groups considered to be at risk include those over 65 years of age, people with chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, and pregnant women.
Who should NOT get the flu shot?
If you have a child younger than six months old, are allergic to chicken eggs, had a bad reaction to a flu vaccine in the past, or have a history of Guillain-Barré, you should consult with your medical doctor first before receiving the flu shot.
What else can you do to help prevent the flu?
Other ways you can help prevent the flu (besides living in a bubble), all have to do with keeping yourself in good health. Getting enough sleep, making sure to wash your hands frequently, drinking plenty of fluids, and keeping your stress levels can all help you stay healthy. If you do get sick, make sure you stay home. It’s not worth infecting other people, and you’ll give your body the rest it needs to help get better, quicker.