Flu Season is On Its Way — Here’s What You Need to Know

2017-2018 was a particularly dangerous flu season. The virus can infect anyone, but those with weak immune systems (young and old people, plus people already battling certain diseases) are the most at risk of dangerous consequences from the flu. Between fall 2017 and winter 2018, 180 children died from the flu in the United States — a record-setting death toll for any past flu season. And with another season around the corner, it’s no surprise adults and children alike are bracing for the worst. Here’s what you need to know about how to stay healthy and beat this upcoming flu season.

Woman Suffering With Whooping Cough

It’s important to be as prepared for flu season as possible. | Highwaystarz-Photography/Getty Images

Doctors and experts can’t predict the severity of the flu

While doctors and researchers try their best to understand the flu, it varies each season. The vaccines don’t always work the way researchers had hoped, which can make some flu seasons much harder than others. Plus, the disease typically is riskiest for babies and the elderly since their immune systems are weaker, but it’s unpredictable exactly how someone’s body will respond. That’s why it’s important to take proper precautions during flu season despite how healthy you may think you are.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible

This is especially true for those with weak immune systems or who may be more exposed to the virus than others. Getting vaccinated right when the flu shot becomes available is the best way to protect yourself from the virus. Once you get the shot, the antibodies that develop may take up to two to four weeks to offer their full protection. Getting the shot at the very beginning of flu season ensures you’re as protected as possible. The CDC recommends that anyone over six months should be vaccinated. It’s nearly impossible to tell the severity of one flu season before it happens, since every year is a completely clean slate for the virus.

Take regular precautions to avoid catching unwanted germs

Act accordingly to prevent the virus. Always wash your hands before you eat and whenever you get home from a public place, such as the mall or grocery store. Kids should avoid using drinking fountains at school, since they’re often a breeding ground for germs. Never share food or drinks with friends or family, and teach any children to do the same. Carry hand sanitizer with you at all times in case you come in contact with someone sick. The measures may seem extreme, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The vaccine isn’t usually 100% effective, so those extra precautions could save you a week of being sick in bed — or worse.

If you become infected, take time to recover

Don’t rush back to work or school if you’ve come down with the flu. It can be a lot for the body to handle, so proper recovery time is necessary. Plus, if you return to work or school too soon, the virus may not be completely gone, and you risk infecting others around you. The virus is contagious about a day before symptoms show and up to a week after they start, so make sure you give yourself ample time to recover. Your body — and neighbors — will thank you.

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