As the season transitions to fall, the days get shorter and the weather gets colder. Though this may be a welcome environmental change, it also signals that flu season is on the horizon. Every fall and winter, influenza becomes a significant health risk that will affect millions of individuals and cause tens of thousands of deaths in the United States. There are a few reasons that the flu becomes more active during the colder weather seasons—including limited sun exposure resulting in less vitamin D production, more time spent indoors in close proximity to others, and the preference of the flu virus for colder temperatures that allows it to spread more rampantly in the winter season.
As is the case every flu season, your best line of defense against the virus is a flu shot, but there may be some things you don’t know about the shot and other lines of defense against this virus.
The flu shot doesn’t work immediately.
You might think that it isn’t necessary to get a flu shot, because you don’t know anyone who currently has the flu. However, the flu shot can take about two weeks to build up immunity against the virus in your system, so it’s best to get one as a preemptive move. You may also act with more urgency if you live in the Southwest, because there have already been confirmed cases of flu in Maricopa County, Arizona this September. If you get a flu shot now, it should offer protection throughout the duration of flu season, which can extend into March.
Nasal spray flu prevention is still not recommended for 2017.
In the 2016-2017 season, the nasal spray flu vaccine was pulled from shelves and not recommended for use. Though this option was standard as a vaccination for younger children in previous years, it is still not recommended in the 2017-2018 season. Every member of the family over six months of age should have an injectable flu shot for optimal protection.
Pregnant women can get the flu vaccine.
Being pregnant during flu season may be a source of dread, but know that you can still receive the flu vaccine while you are expecting. In fact, having a flu shot during pregnancy can actually boost the immunity of your baby for the first several months of his or her life, which can be particularly beneficial, since babies are not able to have flu shots themselves.
Your diet can help you prevent the flu.
Unfortunately, the flu shot cannot offer 100% protection from the flu—especially if there is a decline in vaccination rates, continuing the trend of last season. That means you should also take other preventive steps, such as frequent handwashing and courteous coughing to limit the spread of the virus. In addition, you might bolster your immune system with some flu-fighting foods. Choices like fennel, red peppers, anise seeds, yogurt, and fatty fish all provide your body with powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can keep you from getting sick.
When flu prevention fails, you’ll want to know where to turn to receive care for your symptoms. Contacting MeMD at the first signs of the flu may help you get better faster with antiviral medication, and our medical team can also help you find relief when your symptoms have persisted for days, or even weeks.