It's that time of year again: flu season is upon us. If you want to stay healthy this winter, there are a few things you can do to help prevent you and your family members from catching the flu.
1. Get the flu shot
According to doctors at Baystate Urgent Care - Northampton, all adults and children over six months old should get an annual flu shot. Flu vaccines can include either dead viruses or live attenuated viruses, which signal your body to develop antibodies. These antibodies develop within about two weeks after vaccination and help protect against the strains administered through the vaccine. Because it may take up to two weeks to build full immunity, it is recommended that you get the flu shot before or at the beginning of the flu season, which begins in November and ends March 31. You can, however, get the flu shot at any time.
Different types of administration are available, including intramuscular, intradermal, and jet injector. Nasal sprays are also available and are growing in popularity for those seeking to avoid an injection.
"The nasal spray or mist is a live attenuated vaccine and can be given to patients ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant or immunocompromised," says Daniel Skiest, MD, chief of Infectious Diseases at Baystate Medical Center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals speak to their health care provider to determine the best option for vaccine administration.
2. Keep your distance
During flu season, it is a good idea to avoid contact with those that are sick. Likewise, if you are sick, it is important to stay home and keep your distance from others to avoid spreading germs. Schools, offices and other well-populated public spaces are ripe for spreading illnesses from person to person. Remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and avoid rubbing your eyes, nose and mouth.
3. Establish everyday healthy habits
Washing your hands regularly is one of the best ways to prevent catching the flu. Many people do not think about how many possible germ-infected doorknobs, faucets and other practical items they touch on a daily basis. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand rubs.
Also, the experts at Baystate Urgent Care – Northampton emphasize the importance of keeping your immune system strong by staying well rested, eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water to flush toxins out of your system. Taking vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc can also help boost your immune system. However, no vitamins, herbs or other supplements have actually been proven effective in preventing the flu.
Another common misconception is that antibiotics can be taken to treat the flu. However, because the flu is a virus and not an infection caused by bacteria, antibiotics are not effective as a form of treatment.
Taking preventative measures is especially important for those most at risk for serious complications from the flu, including babies and adults ages 65 and older.
By protecting yourself against the flu, you are also helping to prevent the spread of the flu and are protecting those in your community.