Flu season is here, and it's not too late to start protecting yourself and your family against it. Here's how you can avoid the flu this year.
Get the flu vaccine
Experts agree that getting the flu shot is the single best way to reduce the risk of getting the flu and lessen the severity of the illness.
Health experts recommend that almost everyone age 6 months or older receive a flu vaccine, preferably in the fall before the start of the season. The sooner the better: according to the CDC, the vaccine takes about two weeks for immune protection to develop.
Kids need the flu shot — not nasal spray
In recent years, as many as one-third of kids ages 2 through 17 received a nasal spray vaccine.
But a panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned that the vaccine should not be used during the 2017 flu season.
Studies show that the nasal spray vaccine was not as effective last season in preventing flu compared to the traditional shot.
No one knows why the nasal vaccine was not as effective last year, says Dr. Shruti K. Gohil, a UCI Health infectious disease specialist. It could be that the nasal vaccine was less effective against the predominant flu strain last season, H1N1.
This year kids will need to roll up their sleeves, too. But the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
6 more ways to prevent the flu
There are other important ways to curb your risk of getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Wash your hands often. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill.
- Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels and alcohol-based hand rubs.
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
Know the flu symptoms
The flu usually comes on suddenly, and most sufferers feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
If you are experiencing mild to moderate flu symptoms, consider visiting a UCI Health urgent care clinic or walk-in clinic.