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Protect Yourself From the Flu Virus this Season

Flu season is already here, but there is still time to protect yourself from the virus. You can take simple steps to help keep yourself and your family healthier this fall and through the holidays.

Why should you care about the flu?

Last year’s flu season was mild. The precautions people took against COVID-19 – wearing masks and staying home – helped keep the number of flu infections low.

This year, people are gathering together more often and are spending time in public places again. Health experts say these factors could lead to more people getting sick with the flu this season.

It is important to protect yourself and your family from the flu, because it can be dangerous. While some people may experience milder symptoms, complications can lead to a stay in the hospital or even death.

According to the CDC, during the 2019-2020 flu season, the vaccine prevented an estimated 3.7 million flu-related medical visits

The flu and chronic conditions

People with certain chronic conditions are at higher risk for flu complications. It is harder for a weakened immune system to fight infection.

Chronic lung disease, like COPD, is considered a high-risk condition. The flu virus can worsen inflammation in the lungs caused by COPD. This can make it more difficult to breath and can increase the chances of getting a bacterial infection like pneumonia.

Diabetes is also a high-risk condition that is tough to manage while having the flu. The flu can sometimes mask symptoms of uncontrolled blood sugar. To avoid dangerous complications, people with diabetes must monitor their blood glucose levels more closely when they are ill.

If you are unsure whether you are considered high-risk for flu complications, the CDC provides a list of known health and age factors.

Get a flu vaccine, and get it early if you can

The best protection from the flu virus is the flu vaccine. The vaccine is updated every year to be most effective against the strongest flu strains. That is why it is recommended you get a flu shot annually in early fall. If you get the flu shot later in the season, you will still benefit because flu activity can last as long as May.

The COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu virus. If you have been vaccinated for the coronavirus, a flu shot is still advised.

You can get the flu shot at your doctor’s office, your local pharmacy or at a walk-in clinic. If you need help, your healthcare provider can give you more information on when and where to get it.

A rare group of people should not get the flu shot due to allergies or other illnesses. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you whether or not this applies to you.

It is possible to get the flu even if you are vaccinated. However, the vaccine has been proven to help prevent extreme symptoms and complications if you get sick.

Other ways to prevent the flu

In addition to getting a flu shot, there are other things you can do to stay healthier and avoid the flu.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough.
  • Avoid crowded places and keep your distance from people who may be sick.
  • Keep the surfaces in your home or at work clean.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to boost your immune system
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