You know flu season is right around the corner when the days start getting shorter. Historically, the virus doesn't ramp up locally until January or later, but now is the time to take action to stay healthy all season.
Follow these four tips to avoid the flu.
Get the flu shot.
The flu shot is the single best way to prevent the flu. Every person 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot. Those at high risk — young children; pregnant women; people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart or lung disease; and people 65 years or older — especially need to get a flu shot to decrease the risk of severe complications.
The flu shot will not give you the flu. "What it will do is fire up antibodies in your immune system to be able to recognize the flu virus if it enters your body this season and fight it off," says Dr. Resham Batra, a pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.
If you're one to say, "I never get the flu, so I don't get a flu shot," Dr. Batra reminds you that if you do catch it, it lasts seven to 10 days, meaning lost time and money on doctor's visits, missed work or school, as well as the misery that comes along with having the flu. Additionally, those who are immunocompromised and can't receive a flu shot rely on the rest of the community being vaccinated to avoid catching the flu.
Wash your hands frequently.
"Also, limit how much you touch your face during the day, and always cough into your elbow," says Dr. Batra. "If you're a parent, modeling these practices will teach your children healthy behaviors."
Skip the flu mist this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that flu mist not be used this year, and that all patients — including children over 6 months — should rely on the flu shot.
Make sure everyone in your family has their flu shot before visiting grandparents or older friends.
Seniors are most likely to catch the flu from an unvaccinated child and the symptoms of the flu can more easily compromise the health of older adults.
Visit sharp.com/flu for more information about the flu and for Sharp flu clinic locations and dates.
This story was updated in September 2018.