Flu season in the United States typically spans from October to February at its peak, although it’s possible to catch a flu bug at any point in the year. The flu season can also start and end earlier in the year, depending on the year and particular virility of the strains going around.
Influenza in a Post-COVID World
The global COVID pandemic era saw a number of years of lower-than expected influenza cases, thanks to masks and other precautions that came along with the pandemic.
However, influenza may be back in a bigger way than before now that COVID restrictions and precautions around the world have been lifted.
Australia, for example, has reported almost double the number of pre-pandemic influenza cases in 2022.
This spike in influenza cases can be attributed to several factors. First, masking indoors, reduced indoor exposures, and greater health precaution in general may have lowered natural immunity to influenza.
Secondly, the long COVID pandemic may have created “vaccine fatigue” in the general population—several years of being on high alert might have made people forget about or downplay the possibility of getting seriously ill from the seasonal flu.
What Can I Do to Prepare for Flu Season?
Seasonal vaccines are always the first line of defense against viruses like the flu. Since the virus mutates rapidly, getting a regular flu shot can inoculate you against the most virulent and widespread variation in a given flu season.
Do I Need to Get a Flu Vaccine?
The CDC recommends a yearly vaccination for everyone over 6 months old, and especially for people with a high risk of influenza complications, including:
- Pregnant women
Chronic ailments also increase the risk of serious complications from the flu, such as:
- Asthma or pulmonary disease
- Cancer or undergoing chemotherapy
- Heart disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Autoimmune diseases (HIV, AIDS)
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
Be sure to check with your doctor before receiving a flu vaccine if you have had adverse reactions in the past.
When Should I get My Flu Shot?
Since it takes about two weeks to reach peak efficacy, your best bet is to get a flu shot as soon as it becomes available in your area. Vaccines typically begin shipping to providers after August in the United States. Don’t wait until you or someone you know is already sick!
Ask your provider if they’re able to provide the influenza vaccine. If your primary care provider doesn’t provide them, supermarkets and pharmacies generally provide inexpensive shots—you may even be able to walk-in same day to get a shot while you’re out running errands.
Practice Basic Hygiene
As with any communicable disease, the next best thing is to practice basic hygiene to prevent the spread of germs.
Wash hands frequently
Washing hands is one of the simplest ways to prevent getting sick regularly or spreading communicable diseases to others. The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds:
- Before touching face, eyes, nose, or mouth
- After leaving a public location
- After touching surfaces or objects that are touched frequently by others (door knobs, tables, gas pumps, etc.)
If no soap or water are readily available, use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
Cover Your Cough
Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze is another great way to prevent others from getting sick. Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of the flu, you could be carrying germs that could be disastrous to others who may not have immunity to the flu.
Sneeze or cough into your elbow when possible, or wear a mask if you think you have been exposed to the flu or similar illness.
Stay at Home
At this point, we’re all familiar with the concept of “quarantining”. Stay at home when possible if you’re feeling sick or have been exposed to someone else who is actively displaying symptoms, and avoid public spaces for a few days.
For more information on the flu vaccine, please reach out to your providers at Blue Sky MD Health, or schedule your next appointment online today.