Five Things to Know Before Flu Season

Winter is coming—and so is flu season. Prepare yourself for the onslaught of sneezing, wheezing, and freezing with these five facts about influenza.

1. An average 5 – 20% of the U.S. population comes down with the flu each year. 

That’s about 9.2 – 35.6 million people! Of that number, there are between 140,000 – 710,000 flu-related hospitalizations each season. The active strains of influenza and effectiveness of the flu vaccine differs from year to year, hence the wide range in scale. 

2. This year’s flu season is predicted to be more severe than in previous years.

The US Centers for Disease Control uses data from the Southern Hemisphere to predict the severity of the flu in the United States. Australia had a rough flu season this year, leading medical experts to believe that we will experience a similar rise in outbreaks. 

3. It takes about two weeks post-flu shot for your body to build up immunity to the virus. 

“Flu season” is typically considered late October – early May with peaks December through February. Medical experts recommend getting your flu shot before the end of October so your body has time to adjust before the disease spikes.

4. Young children and older adults are particularly at risk for the flu. 

Children younger than five and adults older than 65 can develop serious complications if exposed to the flu. The CDC urges parents to monitor their children’s contact with others if not protected by a vaccine, or if younger than six months old. Senior adults are encouraged to get a high-dose flu shot that will further protect their immune system from complications like pneumonia.

5. You can still get the flu with a flu shot.

Although rare, it is possible to contract the disease even after receiving a flu shot. Stay healthy by practicing “respiratory etiquette”: wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and avoid direct contact with anyone who seems ill. 

Influenza or not, your health is likely to suffer from the winter slump. Team acac recommends exercise, healthy fuel, and quality rest. Believe it or not, a great sweat session can help fight tuberculosis germs and other icky pathogens—saunas, steam rooms, and steam showers are great places to visit if you feel sickness brewing! And as comforting as it can be to subside your winter blues with a greasy grilled cheese sandwich and creamy tomato soup, that’s not the healthiest strategy. Fuel your body properly for lasting energy throughout the day. Balance carbohydrates with a lean protein or healthy fat; drink warm decaf beverages, herbal teas, and low-fat hot chocolate. Most importantly, listen to your body and know when you need to rest. Set a regular bedtime and don’t be afraid to cancel social plans if your body craves a quiet Friday night.