The Flu Is Nothing to Sneeze At

Seasonal cold. Adult man sitting on the sofa and holding a paper tissue while sneezing.

Did you know that a cough or a sneeze can spread the flu up to six feet away? Besides catching the flu months before the winter really hits, you can also catch it even later into the spring (a time not normally associated with flu season). Flu season is at its worst in January and February, and since the vaccine takes a couple of weeks to begin working in the body, the sooner you get vaccinated, the better.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited the flu as having killed about 80,000 people during the 2017-2018 season — the highest record for flu deaths in 30 years. While mild cases can occur, the flu is a serious, contagious illness that comes on suddenly, affecting the nose, the throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can also cause body aches, chills, headache, and (in some cases) fever, plus diarrhea and vomiting. In severe forms, the flu may lead to a hospital stay (or even death). The CDC recommends that those six months old and above (including those who are pregnant) get the flu shot. Children under age one; adults 65 and older; and those with asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, or heart failure are at higher risk for the virus. The flu can make your condition worse.

Check with your doctor first before getting vaccinated. If you’ve got a cold or don’t feel well, hold off on the flu shot until you’re better. Also let your doctor know if you’re allergic to eggs. (The flu vaccine contains egg proteins.) There are injections, as well as inhaled vaccines, but review the current guidelines at with your doctor.

Getting the flu vaccine won’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu. But it will decrease the chances (and may lessen symptoms) if you do. Arm yourself to help shoo the flu this year:

  • Get the flu shot! It’s your best defense against the virus.
  • Avoid crowds or sick people.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs can spread!
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve (not your hands), away from someone else.
  • Toss used tissues, and wash hands with soap and running water.
  • Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer for when soap and water aren’t accessible.
  • Stay put for at least 24 hours when sick! Don’t resume activity until you have no signs of fever without the use of medication.

By Lisa Miceli Feliciano

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