Flu Season Tips and Info

Winter weather is right around the corner, which means so is the flu season. Since the flu is common, it's easy to forget that it's a serious, contagious illness. However, it's also very easy to take preventative measures to protect yourself, your family, and your friends. The information below may be basic, but it's essential education everyone should know! 

1. What actually is the flu? 

Influenza is a respiratory virus that occurs seasonally. Each year, there's a new strain of the flu that is likely different from what everyone had the previous year. The flu can range from being extremely mild to extremely serious. In fact, during the flu season last year, 9% of the population in the US was hospitalized because of the flu. 

2. What does the flu look like? 

Signs and symptoms of the flu include fever, fatigue, cough, sneeze, sore throat, headaches, and muscle aches. Vomiting and diarrhea can also be symptoms. It's important to note that not everyone with the flu will get a fever. The signs and symptoms can different because each person's immune system is different. However, if you're feeling 'off' or 'icky' and have any of the above, it's best to play it safe and stay home until you feel better. 

3. How can I prevent myself from getting the flu?

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Flu prevention tips include not coughing or sneezing into your hands (try the Dracula cough instead), washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, staying home if sick, and getting the flu shot. Since the flu travels from person to person via direct contact and respiratory measures (and because most college kids are always exhausted), it's very easily spread in college classes and campus dorms. 

4.  Speaking of the flu shot, what does it do? 

 A flu vaccine is always the number one way to protect yourself from the flu virus. Getting a flu vaccine enables your body to develop antibodies to the strain you received. Basically, your body is introduced to (and develops a defense against) a dead portion of the flu predicted to hit hard this year. Once your body comes into contact with that dead portion of the strain, it will recognize the live version and fight it off easier. 

5. Why do I feel bad after I get the flu shot? 

There are some effects from the flu vaccine, but don't let this deter you from getting it! Having soreness or redness at the injection site, headaches, and muscle aches are all totally normal reactions to the flu vaccination. Also, these reactions do not mean the flu vaccine has "given" you the flu! 

6. Why is the flu shot so important? 

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The flu vaccine protects you and it helps protect other people! Young children, older adults, and people with immunosuppression (think cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatments) are especially susceptible to infections and viruses. It's recommended healthy people get the flu vaccine to lessen their own chances of getting the flu and decreasing its spread to people around in the community. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control has a whole page dedicated to the benefits of the flu vaccine. 

Please take note: I understand I can't make you get a flu shot, but it's my hope this information will help you make up your mind concerning how to prep yourself for the upcoming flu season. Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry. For more information on the flu virus or the flu vaccine, visit the CDC's website or Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health website