How Can You Avoid the Flu? Get Your Flu Vaccination

It’s here: the annual rite known as flu season, and that means it’s also time for you and your family to get your annual flu vaccination. Here’s why it’s a good idea:

Getting your flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

Preventing the flu can help you:

  • Avoid feeling really crummy — for days or even weeks.
  • Reduce visits to the doctor or clinic (even though we’re always glad to see you).
  • Decrease the sick days you have to take. (You may have sick days at work, but kids with the flu can really fall behind in school.)
  • Reduce the risk of an avoidable hospitalization. (More than 200,000 are hospitalized due to flu each year in the U.S.)

Here’s some new flu information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that you should know:

  • Only injectable flu shots are recommended this season (there are concerns about the effectiveness of nasal sprays).
  • Flu vaccines are updated to better fight currently circulating viruses.
  • New vaccines will be on the market this season.
  • The vaccination recommendations for those with egg allergies have changed. (Get your health care provider’s guidance if you’re allergic to eggs. Flublok® is an option for you.)

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?

Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October. Getting the vaccine later is OK, too.

What Are the Symptoms of Flu?

It’s easy to confuse a cold with the flu. Here are some guidelines for understanding the difference.

Symptom

Cold

Flu*

Headache Rare Common, can be severe
Muscle aches Mild Common, often severe
Fatigue, weakness Mild Can last 2+ weeks
Extreme exhaustion Never Common early in illness
Runny nose Often Sometimes
Sneezing Often Sometimes
Sore throat Often Sometimes
Cough Mild hacking cough Common, can be severe
Nausea and vomiting Rare Rare

* Never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever.

What If You Get the Flu?

If you get the flu, see your health care provider. The CDC recommends you stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without use of a fever-reducing medicine. Your health care provider may prescribe an antiviral. These drugs can help you feel better faster and may present serious complications.

How Can You Stay Healthy This Season?

To prevent the flu, we need to stop the spread of the flu virus. Here are four steps you can take:

#1: Get Vaccinated

The flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu virus. Ask your health care provider about the best form for you.

#2: Take Good Care of Yourself

Get plenty of sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and keep your stresses under control.

Doing these things will strengthen your immune system, and it will be harder for the flu virus to take hold.

#3: Protect Yourself from Germs

The flu virus is highly contagious and can easily pass from one person to the next through sneezing, coughing or touching contaminated surfaces.

How to protect yourself
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes and nose after being exposed to something or someone contaminated.
  • Wash your hands often to help protect yourself from germs (see step 4).
How to protect others
  • Stay home from work, school and other activities when you’re sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

#4: Use Proper Hand Washing Techniques

Proper hand washing is essential for preventing the flu.

  • Wet your hands with warm, running water.
  • Add soap and rub hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse well under running water.
  • Dry thoroughly with a clean disposable towel.
  • Use the same towel to turn the faucet off.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based gel to sanitize your hands.

Whenever you have questions or concerns about flu in your family, see your health care professional. To help ensure your family’s health through flu season, get the flu vaccine soon.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Y. Lo, MD is a board-certified family medicine physician at Aurora Medical Center in Racine, Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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