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Cold and flu prevention

When is flu season?

Flu season typically varies by location, but in most parts of the United States, it tends to occur during the fall and winter months. The exact timing and duration can fluctuate from year to year, but flu season has begun starting as early as September. The peak of flu season usually occurs during the winter months—typically between December and February—when the highest number of flu cases are reported. Flu activity can continue into the late winter and early spring, typically tapering off by April or May. However, some cases may still occur beyond this timeframe.

Benefits of flu vaccinations

  • Flu prevention: The primary benefit is protection against the flu virus. Flu shots contain inactivated flu viruses, which stimulate the immune system to build resistance. This reduces your chances of contracting the flu.
  • Reduced severity: If you do get the flu despite vaccination, the symptoms are often less severe and of shorter duration. Flu shots can prevent serious complications that may lead to hospitalization or even death.
  • Herd immunity: By getting vaccinated, you contribute to herd immunity. This means that when a significant portion of the population is immune, the flu virus has a harder time spreading. It helps protect vulnerable groups who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants and individuals with certain medical conditions.
  • Protection for high-risk groups: Flu shots are particularly important for high-risk groups, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions. Vaccination reduces their risk of severe illness.

Are there any risks to getting a flu shot?

Getting a flu shot is generally safe and well-tolerated. Most people experience few or mild side effects. Common side effects of a flu shot may include:

  • Sore arm: It's normal to have some soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site. This usually goes away on its own within a day or two.
  • Low-grade fever: Some individuals, especially children, may develop a low-grade fever in the day or two after receiving the flu shot. This is a mild and temporary reaction.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or experiencing mild fatigue is a common side effect. It typically lasts for a short period.
  • Headache: Occasionally, people may have a mild headache after getting a flu shot. This usually resolves quickly.
  • Muscle aches: Some individuals may experience mild muscle aches or body aches, particularly in the arms or legs.
  • Runny nose or congestion: A runny nose or mild congestion can occur as a rare side effect.

Tips to stop the spread of flu

There are a number of steps you can take to limit the spread of the flu virus. Always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands frequently. It’s a good idea to regularly disinfect surfaces that you touch, including doorknobs, your cell phone, and your work area.

  • Avoid close contact: Stay away from individuals who are sick, and if you are feeling unwell, try to keep a distance from others to prevent spreading the virus.
  • Stay home when sick: If you have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue, it's crucial to stay home from work, school, and public places until you have recovered and are symptom-free for at least 24 hours.
  • Wear a mask: During flu season, wearing a mask, especially in crowded or indoor settings, can help reduce the spread of the virus. Masks are particularly important if you are sick.
  • Promote vaccination: Encourage family members, friends, and colleagues to get their flu shots. The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for the virus to spread in the community.

The most important flu prevention measure is receiving the yearly vaccine. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to get the flu shot. We understand it’s another addition to your to-do list, so we’ve made it convenient for your schedule. Our doctors offer same and next-day appointments so you can get in and out with minimal wait.

Why do I need to get a flu shot?

The flu claims lives each year. Dr. Syed Raza, VP of Medical Operations at St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital, explains how getting the flu vaccine can protect both yourself and others.

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