Flu Season is Here: Step One? Getting Vaccinated
By: William Alley, Chief Nursing Officer
November 15, 2022
Flu season has arrived. Lasting from late autumn to as late as May – and peaking between December and February – the
season typically brings millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths. This 2022-23 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expecting flu viruses to circulate along with variants of COVID-19. This makes it as important as ever that we each do what we can to minimize our risk, protect our health and protect the health of those around us. Getting vaccinated against the flu is a vitally important way to do just that.
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and can cause mild to severe illness and even lead to death in certain situations. Everyone is susceptible to the flu, but individuals with a greater risk of developing complications from these viruses include children younger than five years old, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and blood disorders.
At Twin County Regional Healthcare, one of the essential ways we’re making communities healthier is making sure that you know the key ways you can protect yourself, your family and our community from preventable diseases like the flu and even speed up your recovery if you do become ill.
First – and most importantly – get vaccinated. As we have witnessed the last two years with the safety and success of vaccines in protecting us from COVID-19, flu vaccination is the single-best way to protect yourself from influenza viruses. While it is still possible to contract the flu after getting vaccinated, studies show that flu vaccinations can make your illness less severe if you do get sick. Getting vaccinated also affords you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself against the flu.
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone six months and older, with any age-appropriate flu vaccine. If you are considering a nasal spray flu vaccine, it is important to know that this option is approved by the CDC for use in non-pregnant individuals, ages two through 49, and that there is a precaution against this option for those with certain underlying medical conditions. You should talk with your healthcare provider regarding which flu vaccination method works best for you.
Like COVID-19 vaccines, flu vaccines can take approximately two weeks to become fully effective, so you should plan to receive your flu vaccine before flu activity begins in your area. A good rule of thumb is to get vaccinated no later than the end of October. So, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, now is the time. It’s never too late.
And while we’re on the subject of COVID-19 vaccines, it’s a good time to ensure that you’re up to date on your vaccinations – including the most recent bivalent booster that is recommended by the CDC for people ages 5 years and older. You can even conveniently get both vaccines on the same day, to save yourself time. Being vaccinated against both viruses is your best defense against becoming infected with one or both diseases.
You can visit the local health department, a walk-in clinic or pharmacy, or your primary care provider’s office to receive a flu vaccination. If you don’t have a provider, we can connect you with one. Visit our website and browse our Find a Doctor/Provider tab www.TCRH.org, or call 800.424.3627.
In addition to getting vaccinated, there are other simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family, and help prevent the spread of flu and other infections like COVID-19 during flu season and year-round, including:
- Washing your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol-based
- Wearing a face mask in indoor, public spaces
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Avoiding sharing food, cups or eating utensils
- Regularly disinfecting your home and belongings, such as doorknobs, light switches, children’s toys and play areas
- Staying home from school or work if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, your sleeve or elbow, and NOT your bare hands
- Calling your primary care provider with any questions
At TCRH, we’re taking additional steps to help prevent the flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses from spreading by:
- Maintaining stations stocked with alcohol-based sanitizers, tissues and hands-free trash cans throughout our facilities
- Continuing stringent cleaning and disinfection protocols
- Encouraging all patients, staff and visitors to get their flu vaccinations and COVID-19 vaccinations/boosters
- Universal masking for patients, providers, employees, visitors and anyone entering our facility
If you or someone you know notices symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever or other upper respiratory symptoms, please see your healthcare provider right away. Many of the most common symptoms of flu are consistent with COVID-19, so it may be hard to tell the difference between them. Testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Limit your contact with others as much as possible when symptoms appear, and stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care (If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to self-isolate for a longer period of time).
The good news is that when you act on your symptoms, visit a provider and flu is detected early, prescription antiviral drugs can often help treat the illness and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.