Today's Medicine

Now Is the Time to Get the Influenza Vaccine - Before Flu Season Ramps Up

Published: Sept. 23, 2019

Just how big of a deal is the flu? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that last flu season over 37 million people had flu illnesses, over 17 million had flu-related medical visits, and over 500,000 people were hospitalized because of the flu. The flu is estimated to have played a part in over 36,000 deaths during that time.

It’s too early to know how bad this flu season might be, but the advice remains the same. Protect yourself and those around you by getting the flu vaccine, either by shot or nasal spray. Here’s what you need to know for this year’s flu season:

Where can I get the flu vaccine?

Talk with one of the receptionists at any Methodist Physicians Clinic location to schedule an appointment. You can also use this online tool to find other places to get the vaccine.

What is influenza, and are you at risk?

Some flu basics to know:

  • The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by different viruses.
  • Flu activity often begins to increase in October, peaking between December and February. It can last as late as May.
  • Flu symptoms include muscle aches, fever, chills, sore throat, cough and fatigue. The flu also can lead to serious complications, hospitalization and sometimes death.
  • Anyone can get the flu, although people over 65, those with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and children under 5 are at higher risk of developing serious complications.

Essential vaccine information

Flu viruses mutate each season, so everyone age 6 months and older should get a vaccine each year. That includes people with cancer or with a history of cancer, and women who are pregnant. Studies have shown that getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy can protect the baby for several months after birth.

As in past years, the vaccines have been updated to match the viruses expected to circulate in the U.S. A shot is the most common method for vaccination, but the CDC also recommends the nasal spray vaccine as an option.

After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for you to be protected. While it’s recommended everyone get a vaccine by the end of October, it’s never too late in the flu season to be vaccinated.

Want to know more? The CDC has a detailed website offering answers to frequently asked questions, vaccine recommendations, data on flu activity and more. 

Prevention is key to staying healthy

Colds and the flu can make for misery at home, school and the workplace. To help keep yourself safe, remember to:

  • Get a flu shot: Without question, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself.
  • Wash your hands: There is a right way – rinse your hands and lather with soap, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer: If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Disinfect high-touch areas: Countertops, door handles and gym equipment are all breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. You should also frequently wipe down phones, remotes and light switches.
  • Stop biting your nails: Your fingers touch everything, and your nails collect it – including germs and bacteria. Touching your face or biting your nails puts them on a direct route to your mouth and nose.
  • Get good sleep: Getting quality sleep on a regular basis strengthens your immune system.
  • Boost your immune system: You can boost your body’s ability to fight off sickness by adding the right vitamins and nutrients to your diet. Check out these ideas.

More Resources

About the Author

Dr. Rudolf Kotula is a board-certified infectious disease physician. He specializes in areas such as antibiotic resistance, travel medicine and infection prevention.

You can visit Dr. Kotula at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

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