Luckily, your ability to prevent influenza each season is largely under your control when you use proper respiratory measures and get vaccinated.
The principles of protecting yourself from influenza are similar to those of protecting yourself from any other kind of contagious respiratory virus. You should avoid people who appear ill, making sure to keep a distance from people who are actively coughing or sneezing. Make sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your face. When in a crowded public space, wearing a facial covering can further reduce your risk.
Influenza Vaccines (“The Flu Shot”)
One of the biggest steps you can take in protecting yourself from the flu is getting vaccinated. Each year, scientists use data from other parts of the world and their influenza seasons in order to predict which influenza strains will be most prominent during the flu season in the United States. Scientists use this information to create a new, specific influenza vaccine, which typically becomes available in the early fall of each year.
According to the CDC, getting vaccinated against the flu can reduce your chances of contracting the flu by between 40 and 60 percent. There are multiple types of vaccines available, including injected forms and nasal sprays. For children or adults who have egg allergies, specific vaccine formulations should be used.
Side effects of the flu shot generally include irritation or pain around the area where the shot was administered, mild body aches, or a low-grade fever. These signs indicate that your body is mounting an immune response to the vaccine, which is the intended goal; they do not indicate that you have contracted the flu virus from the vaccine.
Who Should Get a Flu Shot?
The CDC advises that everyone age 6 months and older should get vaccinated against influenza. Make sure to call your healthcare provider to ask when they will be getting the flu shot this year, so that you can get vaccinated in time to mount an antibody response before the virus begins to spread more broadly.
Flu shots are offered by some employers, so you can check to see if your company will be hosting a vaccine campaign this fall. Flu shots are also available in pharmacies and even grocery stores throughout the country. You can visit the CDC’s flu vaccine finder to find a flu shot near you.