The leaves are falling, football is starting and there’s a slight chill in the air. Signs of fall, of course—but these are also a few annual clues that flu season is on its way.
Before this time of year slips into full swing, most people want to know how they can best protect themselves and their families from getting sick. Your best bet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is to get your flu shot. This is the number one way to lower your risk of getting seasonal flu and any serious complications it brings.
Who’s most at risk?
Though the CDC recommends a flu shot for anyone six months and older, certain populations should make sure they don’t skip getting theirs. Higher-risk individuals include children, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. If you’re in one of these categories, getting your flu shot is especially important to help you to stay healthy, and limit your risk of becoming sicker or being hospitalized. As a bonus for expecting moms, studies have shown getting the flu shot during pregnancy can help shield your baby from the flu for several months after birth.
Some flu shot basics
Whether you’re used to getting your flu shot every year or have never had one, it helps to know a few basics. An influenza vaccine, commonly called a “flu shot,” is a vaccine to protect you against the four influenza viruses research indicates will be the most common during the upcoming season each year. Most of the time, your flu vaccine is administered by a needle, usually in your arm. However, a nasal spray flu vaccine is also sometimes available.
Reasons flu shots are important
Preventing you and your loved ones from coming down with a bad case of the flu is a top reason for getting your flu shot. But some other reasons you might want to consider include:
- Protecting those around you. When you get your flu shot, you can prevent spreading the flu to people you come into contact with, including older adults, coworkers and children.
- Lowering your chance of serious illness. Getting your flu shot can lessen your flu symptoms and stop you from becoming very ill.
- Reducing hospitalization. Your flu shot could keep you from a hospital stay or from being admitted to an intensive care unit from flu-like symptoms.
- Helping to save lives. In children or those living with chronic health conditions, getting a flu shot can be a lifesaving step.
Other ways to stay healthy
Although getting your flu shot is the best way to cut your risk of coming down with the flu, some other healthy habits can give you a leg up, too. A few tips for staying healthy include:
- Washing your hands. Using soap and water regularly to clean your hands will help keep germs at bay. If you can’t wash up, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the trick as well.
- Avoiding close contact with others who are sick. Keeping some distance from those around you who may be under the weather is a good idea until they feel better.
- Covering your mouth and nose. If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, it’s good practice to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (or your arm).
- Staying home when you’re not feeling well. Skipping your errands and just staying home when you’re ill can give you more time to rest up and recover. You also won’t spread any germs to others who are out and about.
Ready to get your flu shot? Early fall is the right time to do it! If you’re curious about where you can get yours, check with your local pharmacy. If you live near a CVS Pharmacy or MinuteClinic®, these can be great options. And your doctor is always your best resource if you have questions about your health conditions and which vaccine might be right for you. By taking the proper steps and a few precautions, you’re on your way to a happy and healthy flu season!
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.