With the holiday season upon us, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza. Last season, there were record-breaking influenza-related hospitalization rates across the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This season in Georgia alone, more than 50 students from an elementary school in Troup County were out with the flu, which led the school to resort to drastic measures to keep the virus from spreading like hiring a disinfectant cleaning service and supplying classrooms with medical-grade hand sanitizer.
Nevertheless, the best way to avoid the flu this year is to take preventive measures as soon as possible. A recent Walgreens survey revealed that more than half (54 percent) of Americans, including two-thirds (66 percent) of millennials ages 25 to 34, plan to get the flu vaccine earlier this year than they have in the past. Of seniors (65+) who plan to get the flu vaccine earlier this year, 83 percent say it’s better to protect against the flu sooner.
You can also take preventative measures by avoiding the spread of germs on shared, everyday objects like telephones, keyboards, remote controls and transit rails. Wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer when you can, cover your sneeze, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often.
Still unsure? I’ve answered some commonly asked questions on flu season below to help ease your concerns.
When should I get a flu shot?
Flu immunizations can take up to two weeks to become effective, so it is recommended that you get your flu immunization as early as possible. And if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it’s not too late. With holiday travel and gatherings just around the corner, the flu vaccine should be on the top of everyone’s to-do list.
Who should get the flu shot?
The CDC recommends all individuals six months and older get an annual flu shot. This includes children, adults, older individuals and pregnant women. Individuals should consult their pharmacist or doctor if they have any concerns and to determine the appropriate vaccination for them, which may include a high-dose vaccine recommended for those over age 65 or a quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four strains of influenza, among other options. Before heading out to get your flu shot, remember state, age, and health restrictions may apply when getting an immunization at a local pharmacy.
Who does the flu shot protect?
The flu shot protects both individuals who get it as well as those with whom they come into contact. Flu vaccinations may help protect those around you whose immune systems are compromised as well as infants who are too young to be immunized.
Does the flu shot prevent the flu?
The flu shot is the best defense against the flu, but it does not eliminate the risk of contracting the virus altogether. However, those who get the flu vaccination and contract the flu virus will likely have less severe symptoms and recover faster than those who did not get the flu shot.
What are the symptoms of flu?
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, cough, and sore throat. Symptoms can also include body aches, headache, chills, runny nose and fatigue. Symptoms may last from a few days up to a week or more.
Can the flu shot give me the flu?
No. The flu shot is not a live vaccine, so it cannot give a person the flu.
The holidays are in full swing, so consider taking the time now to care for yourself for a healthier new year.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema