How to Prevent the Flu

The single best way to prevent getting the seasonal flu is to get the Influenza vaccine each year. The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine preferably by October for optimal efficacy, but anytime into the flu season is also ok. The goal is not only to prevent the acute respiratory viral illness but also to prevent the spread of infection to patients at risk for life threatening outcomes like those who have asthma, are less than two years old or those with chronic illness. The vaccine works by creating antibodies that will fight the infection about two weeks after the initial vaccination. Among adults 65 years and older, the CDC estimates that vaccination prevents about 25 percent of influenza related hospitalizations. That’s potentially stopping one in four people from getting hospitalized from something that could have easily been prevented.

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Everyday preventive actions are the single most effective way to prevent getting the flu. Since the flu virus spreads via water droplets, sneezing, talking or hand to hand contact, it makes sense to stay as clean as possible. Since the flu virus can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop, you can spread the flu to someone else before you are even aware you are infected. Avoiding close contact with sick people, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs and covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze are a few examples. Remember, these acts of cleanliness are not just specific to the flu but also to many other types of contact viruses.

Staying active and healthy is life’s oldest adage, but it couldn’t be truer. Someone who is used to practicing a healthy lifestyle free of smoking, drugs or alcohol will have stronger immune and respiratory systems. This decreases the risk of getting respiratory inflammation and therefore infections, and lessens the chance of being prone to the flu and other viruses. Would you want it any other way?

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is Chief Resident of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.