Staying healthy during flu season can be difficult, especially if you have little ones running around the house or are out and about more frequently. You can always take precautions to help your body fight against the flu. Not the stomach flu, influenza. Instead of stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, influenza only affects the respiratory system (nose, throat, and lungs).
Pullman Family Medicine doctor Kim Guida, MD, has yet to see an influenza case this year. However, she is sure it’s coming, “It is predicted to be an earlier flu season than typical (meaning don't wait to get your shot), but we don’t know yet about severity.”
Below, Dr. Guida answered some of the most common questions about the flu, the flu vaccine and how to best stay healthy through these next few months.
How can I stay healthy during flu season?
“Get the flu vaccine! This is the single most effective tool in reducing your risk of flu illness. You can also wear a mask in crowded locations, cover your cough (elbow or tissue) to avoid spreading germs and wash your hands frequently.
“If soap and water are not nearby or handy, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid close contact with other people who are ill.”
How much does the flu vaccine actually help?
“The effectiveness of the flu shot can vary year to year, depending on how well-matched the vaccine is to the predominant circulating strains of the flu virus. Overall, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by 40-60%.
“In addition, if a vaccinated person contracts the flu, they are much less likely to have a severe case of the flu or be hospitalized.”
Should I get the flu vaccine if I am pregnant? Is it safe for my baby?
“Absolutely, yes. Pregnant people are at higher risk for complications from influenza infection due to changes in the immune system during pregnancy. In addition, the flu vaccine can protect the infant in the first months of life, when they are too young to be vaccinated.”
Should I get my kids vaccinated?
“Again, yes! The flu vaccine is recommended for all children aged six months and up. It can be lifesaving for children, especially those under the age of 5 and those with chronic health conditions. While most children recover from flu infection, in the 2019-2020 season (before the full-blown Covid-19 pandemic), 189 children died from the flu in the US. This is a preventable illness! Why take the risk?”
Does wearing a mask prevent me from getting the flu?
“Yes! The flu spreads by respiratory droplets released when infected people speak, cough, or sneeze – these can be directly inhaled by those nearby or transmitted by hands that touch contaminated surfaces.
“Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, masks led to a dramatic reduction in flu cases.”
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