Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness November 02, 2012
Girl blowing her nose into a napkinAs we reach a season of flu activity, experts remind Chicagoans that a simple flu shot can prevent the potential dangers, stress and discomfort associated with the flu virus.

“The flu is a very contagious virus that typically enters the body through the mouth, nose or eyes,” said Catherine Cheng, MD, an internal medicine physician at Northwestern Integrative Medicine. “If a person who is infected coughs or sneezes, the virus can then become airborne, spreading quickly to those in close proximity to them.”

Flu season usually runs from October through May, often peaking in the United States during January or February. Cheng notes that there are numerous misconceptions surrounding the virus. “The flu vaccine does not put you at risk of getting the flu, it prevents it,” said Cheng. “Getting a flu shot may cause temporary, minor side effects, the most common being stiffness at the injection site.”

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it takes two weeks for the body to build antibodies against the flu, which is why it’s important to get vaccinated early in the season. Experts recommend that everyone over the age of six months receive the flu vaccine and stresses the importance of the shot for the following high risk groups:

• Children under the age of five
• Adults age 65 and older
• Pregnant women
• Individuals with certain chronic or immunosuppressive conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and asthma
• Native Americans • Individuals under age 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy

In addition to the seasonal flu vaccine, general health routines help protect against the virus and other illnesses.

“Practicing good hand hygiene is the most important way to avoid spreading the flu virus,” added Cheng. “Cover your mouth and nose at your elbow when you cough or sneeze and maintain healthy habits like getting plenty of rest and exercise.”

Read the full story for more information on this year’s flu season.

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