Keep your family healthy this flu season
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anywhere from 9.3 million up to 49 million people contract the flu each year. Last year’s flu season was particularly virulent: The U.S. saw between 37.4 million and 42.9 million cases, of which unfortunately more than 36,000 resulted in death. On top of that, last year’s flu season was the longest in a decade at 21 weeks.
It is important to get a flu shot not only to protect yourself, but also your family and the community at large, says Seema Wadhwa, assistant vice president of sustainability and wellness at Inova Health System. “It’s not only important for your own health, but also important to help the health of everyone around you — especially those who are vulnerable,” she says. “It’s the right thing to do to protect our entire community.”
Although flu vaccines are of particular importance for the very young and elderly populations, they should be a part of everyone’s health plan. At Inova, flu protection is a priority — all team members are required to get a flu shot, both to protect themselves and their patients.
When is the best time to get a flu shot?
Last year’s flu season began in October and went all the way until mid-May 2019.
Although it’s ideal to get your flu vaccine in September or October when they first become available, you can still be proactive come wintertime. “You can still get your flu shot well into early 2020,” Wadhwa says.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
All adults and children who are six months and older should get the flu vaccine, with the exception of people who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome or people with allergies to some of the ingredients in the flu shot (i.e. eggs, gelatin and antibiotics).
How can I protect myself and my family against influenza once I’ve gotten the vaccine?
Each year, experts create the flu shot based on data from the previous flu season. They predict which strains are likely to be the most prevalent in the upcoming season. Because it’s somewhat of a guessing game, the flu shot is more effective in some years than others.
The flu vaccine is always your best defense against contracting influenza. But even if you get a flu shot, there are other measures you can take to protect yourself against the flu. The most important one? “Thorough and frequent handwashing,” Wadhwa says.
You should also avoid people who have the flu; cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze; avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes; and sanitize surfaces at home that might have germs, like doorknobs and countertops.
“It’s also crucial to maintain your general health — things like staying active, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of rest,” Wadhwa says.
Are there any common misconceptions about the flu vaccine?
Wadhwa says one very common misconception is that getting a flu vaccine will give you the flu. This couldn’t be further from the truth. “The flu shot does not make you sick,” she says. “That’s an important myth we need to dispel.”
Getting a flu shot is not only important for your health, but also for everyone around you. “It is a relatively pain-free way to make a difference in the community,” Wadhwa says.