You can prevent the flu this season by taking one simple step: Get a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, some people think that getting a flu vaccine is too much trouble or costs too much. Some people are concerned a flu shot will make them sick or more likely to catch the flu,” says Alexander Griffin, MD, a Steward Health Care and Steward Medical Group primary care physician who specializes in infectious disease. “But these are misconceptions.”
The flu is also called seasonal influenza. It is caused by one of several strains of the flu virus (type A or B) that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu makes life miserable for a week or two for many people. It is deadly for some. Flu season can start as early as October. It peaks anywhere from December to March, and last into May. The CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine by the end of October, although getting vaccinated throughout the flu season is still beneficial.
Your best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated. A flu vaccine is especially important for people who are more likely to have problems if they get the flu. This includes:
- Children younger than 5 years, and especially younger than 2 years
- People 65 years and older
- Those with long-term (chronic) health conditions
- Anyone who lives in a nursing home or care facility
- Pregnant women and women whose baby is two weeks old or less
Even if you don’t fall into one of the above groups, you should still get the vaccine if you want to prevent the flu and its symptoms.
According to the CDC, some people shouldn’t be vaccinated for the flu. The following are reasons to talk with your health care provider:
- You have a severe allergy such as an anaphylactic reaction to chicken eggs.
- You developed Guillain-Barré syndrome in the six weeks after getting a flu shot in the past.
- You currently have an illness with a fever. Wait until symptoms get better before getting the vaccine.
- Children younger than 6 months of age should not be vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccines haven’t been approved for that age group.
You can protect yourself against the flu by doing simple things like washing your hands before eating and not putting your hands near your face or in your mouth. Washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water works fine. If soap and water are not available, rub your hands with an alcohol-based hand cleaner. If someone in your family has the flu, you can help prevent it from spreading by cleaning surfaces with a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water.
To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.