How to Protect Yourself in Flu Season

This video, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), outlines how to protect yourself and your whole family from the flu. It debunks common myths associated with the flu shot, too. The easy-to-watch short video reminds viewers how to practice preventative measures to stay protected from the flu as well as spreading other viruses this winter. Keep reading as we break down each of the points in the video and debunk popular myths surrounding the flu! 


Always get the flu shot 


First, the CDC reminds viewers that the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. Flu shots are either made with an inactivated virus (it’s not actually the infection) or with a single gene from the flu virus (not the whole virus). The single gene vaccine causes the immune system to produce a response without causing an infection, this is true. Some people claim they “always get sick” from the vaccine or get the flu even if they get the shot. In most instances, the patient didn’t actually get the flu, but other respiratory viruses that make you feel miserable like the rhinovirus can end up being mistaken for the flu. The flu vaccine only protects against the flu, of course—nothing else. It’s also possible to be exposed to influenza viruses (which cause the flu) shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop immune protection. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect. 


Preventative measures for extra protection  


While the single best way to practice prevention is getting the flu shot, there are other actions you can take to protect yourself and your family. 


First, avoid close contact with others when you’re sick, or avoid people when they’re sick. This includes staying home from work, school, and sports practices. This can be hard when you’re taking care of a sick family member; however, it’s important to limit time spent together. 


Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing to cover your mouth. The flu and many other respiratory illnesses are spread by unclean hands, too. Throwing away a used tissue will help prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. 


Finally, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth all season. Even if you haven’t been coughing, you’ve been touching doorknobs or keyboards and could have easily picked up germs. This is the fastest way the flu vaccine spreads. To that end, wipe down common surfaces when someone is ill. This is a good practice in general to promote health; however, it’s extra important when communicable illnesses are present. 


Know your symptoms  


Flu can cause mild to severe symptoms, and can sometimes lead to death. The flu is different from a cold in many ways, but one distilling factor is that it usually comes on suddenly. Other common symptoms include: 


  • fever 
  • cough 
  • sore throat 
  • runny or stuffy nose 
  • body aches 
  • headache
  • chills 
  • fatigue 
  • sometimes diarrhea and vomiting 


The only way to truly know if you have the flu is to visit the doctor for a flu test. It’s important to seek medical care since complications from the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. 


Make sure you have your flu shot and are adhering to the best practices of preventive measures to keep your and your family safe this year.  

Also published on Medium.

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