Protect Yourself: Flu Season is Coming - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on September 23, 2015

Protect Yourself: Flu Season is Coming

According to the CDC, everyone 6 months of
age and older should get a flu shot every year.

When summer fades into fall, it’s not just the weather that changes. It also marks the start of the dreaded flu season.

Just because it may not exactly feel like autumn yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start protecting yourself from the flu. Flu season typically peaks in January and February, even dragging into March – but now is the time to start thinking about it.

The very first thing you can do to prevent catching the flu is to get a flu shot – now. It takes two weeks from the time you receive your vaccination for your body to develop antibodies, which fight off flu viruses that come into your system. That means you should plan on getting a flu shot as early as September and no later than October.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot every year. Getting a flu shot is especially important for people at a high risk for flu complications and those who are in close contact with them.

Getting vaccinated by October would ensure that as many people as possible would be protected before flu season really begins. But some people may be skeptical about receiving their flu vaccine this year – last year, the flu vaccine wasn’t fully effective in protecting against all strains of influenza, which caused a drop in the number of people who got flu shots.

Despite the possibility that the flu vaccine may not fully protect you from all of the strains each season, getting the vaccine every year is still important. The vaccine is based on research on what will likely be the most common strains that season – experts pick which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance to ensure there’s enough time to produce the vaccine and deliver it to the community before the start of flu season.

Why You Need a Flu Shot Every Year

However, flu viruses are constantly changing from season to season, even changing within the course of one flu season, which is what happened last year.

When you get a flu shot, the antibodies your body creates in response to it for one flu virus can also potentially protect you from a different but related virus. Even if the vaccine isn’t a good match for the viruses circulating during the season, it contains three or four flu viruses, meaning it may still protect you from some of the strains.

Another benefit of the flu shot: the crossover effect. Getting the flu shot can jump start your immune system before you get infected, which can significantly reduce the severity and duration of the flu in the chance you do get sick.

How to Avoid the Flu

Once flu season goes into full swing, there are two more ways you can prevent getting sick: avoiding those who have the flu and washing your hands.

The flu is spread by droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In most cases, people catch the flu because they were within 6-feet or so of an infected person, with these droplets coming into contact with the respiratory tract.

These droplets can often be found on common surfaces. If you happen to touch one of these surfaces and touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you may get sick. This makes good handwashing a key factor in flu protection, in addition to disinfecting objects or surfaces that an infected person may have come in contact with.

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