If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or seek care at an emergency room.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s flu season was considered severe, based on the number of people seeking medical attention for this highly contagious respiratory illness. It also lasted for an extended period, which highlights the importance of being proactive to help prevent the flu.
“Flu activity often begins in October in the U.S., peaks December through February, and sometimes lasts as late as May. So now is the best time to take some preventive steps to protect yourself from getting sick this upcoming flu season,” says Malek Cheikh, MD, medical director of the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital.
“The single best thing you should do each season is get a flu shot. Seasonal flu shots are created to protect against the three or four flu viruses that are expected to be the most common during a flu season. Last year’s vaccination won’t protect you,” Dr. Cheikh explains. “Flu vaccines trigger the development of antibodies that guard against the strains of flu contained in the vaccine.”
Although complete immunity can’t be guaranteed, there are some other ways to reduce your risk of infection from the flu. “Flu is extremely contagious, able to spread from one person to another within six feet via droplets produced when coughing, sneezing, talking, or by touching contaminated surfaces,” he notes. “That’s why practicing good health and hygiene habits is a key line of defense against the flu.”
Here are a few ways to help keep the flu at bay:
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick or other people if you are sick.
- If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has disappeared.
- Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing. Dispose of the tissue immediately after use.
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without first washing your hands to ensure they are germ-free.
- Disinfect surfaces that people come into contact with at work, school, or home.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of getting an annual flu shot, especially individuals who are at a greater risk of experiencing complications from flu. This includes young children, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65, and those with chronic medical conditions,” Dr. Cheikh adds. “That said, there is no foolproof strategy for dodging the flu completely. Good health and hygiene habits can go a long way in terms of reducing your risk of infection.”
The Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital offers seasonal flu vaccines for $20 as well as pneumonia vaccines for $25, and both vaccines are free for those with valid Medicare Part B cards. To learn more about its services, visit this page or call 410-248-8322.
This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.