Influenza 101 – Your Guide to the Flu Season
Fall is around the corner, and with the new season comes the much-anticipated Friday night lights, cooler temperatures, seasonal fun at the apple orchard or pumpkin patch, and … the flu. One of those isn’t like the others. The unwelcomed highly contagious flu virus begins to make its presence known in October, increasing into the winter months.
With all the fun the end of the year has in store, it can be easy to forget the importance of keeping you, your friends and family, and community healthy and safe. Unfortunately, the flu can result in serious complications like pneumonia, worsened chronic conditions, and hospitalization, so it’s best to make sure you’re taking precaution. Continue reading for a quick refresher on influenza and how you can arm yourself against the virus this year.
How do I get the flu?
Influenza is spread by infected droplets in the air that come from things like coughing, sneezing, or talking. People are the most infectious during the first few days of showing symptoms, but it’s possible for you to be infectious one day before showing symptoms and up to one week after you’re symptom free.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea are also common in children.
How can I protect myself?
The best way to keep yourself safe from the flu is to continue practicing the healthy habits you should be doing year-round! These include:
- Keeping your hands clean
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Not touching your mouth, nose, or eyes
- Avoiding contact with those who are sick
- Staying home if you have flu-like symptoms or think you may be getting sick
- Getting your influenza vaccine every year
These actions can also protect you against other viruses, such as COVID-19.
When is flu season?
In the United States, we have flu viruses that pop up year-round, but most tend to show up late fall/early winter. Flu season typically peaks between December and February, but it can last into May.
Should my entire family get vaccinated?
Absolutely! We can see different strains of the influenza virus every year, which is why it’s important to get your flu shot annually to stay protected from the most current one.
Annual flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Children and those with weaker immune systems may be contagious longer if they get sick, so the vaccine is especially important for protection. If you have any concerns or questions about receiving a vaccine, don’t hesitate to talk with your provider.
Remember – the flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It may trigger an immune response with mild, short-term side effects, such as soreness at the injection site, fever, or body aches, but these are side effects, not the flu.
When can I get my flu shot?
Flu shots typically become available around the end of August and late October. While it’s important to know when the flu is prevalent, you should get your shot as soon as it’s available to you. Even if your community hasn’t seen much flu activity, it can increase at any time, and you shouldn’t delay getting vaccinated!
Ideally, you should receive your flu shot by the end of October to give your body time to develop antibodies and start protecting you from the virus before flu season peaks. Even if you can’t get vaccinated until November or later, you should still make an appointment! Flu activity can continue well into May, so it’s best to protect yourself even if it’s later than recommended.
Now that you’re armed with the facts, it’s time to make your flu shot appointment. Reach out to your primary care provider or local pharmacy to find a time and place that’s convenient for you and your family. Premise Health members can call their health center or conveniently message their provider using the My Premise Health app to schedule an appointment. Together we can fight the flu and stay safe this season!