Submitted by Dr. Sheree Sharpe, Family Practice, Kaiser Permanente Steele Street Medical Center

Cold weather and a busy schedule are all part of getting back into the swing of the new year. But as we cross off our checklists, it’s easy to get run down and possibly catch the dreaded seasonal flu. The Department of Health reported flu activity in Washington state was greatly elevated this season, including three fatalities in children. Knowing how to best keep healthy can often be stressful and overwhelming, but remembering to receive your annual flu shot is one of the best – and most effective – ways to protect yourself and your community.

The Seasonal Flu – What You Should Know

The seasonal flu is one of the most common type of illness contracted and spread throughout the fall and winter months. Familiar symptoms such as chills, fever, headaches, body aches, tiredness, coughing and a sore throat are ones to keep an eye on and seek medical attention if they persist for more than seven to ten days or get worse over three to five days. The 2019-2020 flu vaccine protects against several flu strains such as Influenza A and Influenza B – illnesses that are much more severe amongst higher-risk individuals. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and keep your family healthy throughout the remainder of winter.

Who should receive the annual flu shot?

The annual flu vaccine is especially important for high-risk individuals including children, pregnant women, adults over the age of 50 and those with chronic conditions. Flu shots are safe for expectant mothers and newborns as young as six months.

Kaiser Permanente
Photo courtesy: Kaiser Permanente

Is it too late to get vaccinated this year?

It’s essential to get vaccinated as soon as possible as it can take up to two weeks for your body to develop adequate immunity against the Influenza viruses. While the CDC does recommend getting the flu shot before December, you can still receive the vaccine throughout the duration of flu season – which can often go as late as May. It’s not too late to get your shot!

How effective is the flu vaccine?

According to the CDC, the flu shot prevented 7.1 million flu illnesses during the 2017–2018 season. Ultimately, vaccines work best when a high proportion of community members are immunized, which is why we highly recommend the vaccine to our patients.

What are some other tips to stay healthy this winter?

Remember to wash your hands, especially after you’ve been in public places or in contact with areas that might be contaminated. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers can work as another alternative to hand washing, and it’s also important to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spreading of germs. Keeping on a consistent schedule of eight hours of sleep per night and maintaining a balanced diet of nutritional foods like fruits, vegetables and proteins can also help to ensure your immune system is in top shape. If you’re feeling sick, it’s also best to stay home and get as much rest as possible. This will help to keep the virus from spreading in your community.

To learn more about the flu vaccine visit KPWA.org.

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