7 Things You Need to Know About the 2018-2019 Cold and Flu Season
Did you know that last year’s flu season was the worst in over 40 years, killing over 80,000 people?
While flu season isn’t a reason to panic, you owe it to yourself and your family to stay informed. After all, there are few things as important in life as staying healthy.
What are experts predicting for 2018/2019’s cold and flu season? What do you need to do to protect you and your loved ones from getting sick?
Here are 7 questions (and answers) about the upcoming flu season.
1. When Is Flu Season?
We hear a lot of talk about cold and flu season, but what exactly does that mean? Does it correspond with a certain month or period of time?
While it is possible to get a cold or the flu at any time of year, there’s definitely a spike of cases during the wintertime. February is the most common month to get the flu, followed by December, January, and March.
Some studies suggest that low humidity levels and cold temperatures increase transmission of the virus, which could explain why there are more cases of the flu during the winter.
2. Who Should Get a Flu Shot (And When)?
The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone older than six months get the flu shot.
It’s especially important for the following groups:
Children between six months and four years old
Anyone over the age of 50
While anyone can catch the flu, these groups are more prone to complications caused by the virus.
Even if you rarely catch the flu yourself or only exhibit mild symptoms, getting the flu shot can help prevent you from spreading it to someone more vulnerable.
The ideal time to get your flu shot is early in the autumn–October, if possible. Since it takes two to four weeks for your body to develop antibodies, this allows you better immunity before the flu starts making the rounds in your area.
3. Can the Flu Shot Give You the Flu?
A common rumor circulates every year that the flu shot gives you the flu. Is this true?
Absolutely not. The flu vaccine is made from either a dead or deactivated virus or a single gene from a flu virus. It’s not possible for any of these components (on their own) to give you the flu.
What can happen are side effects of the vaccine, including muscle aches or low-grade fever. These are a normal reaction to the vaccine–not a case of the flu.
4. How Severe Will This Flu Season Be?
Why does the flu seem particularly bad some years and quite mild other years?
Experts can never say for sure how severe the flu season will be in any given year. Interestingly, though, they can make an educated guess based on Australia’s flu season.
Because of the reversal of seasons in the southern hemisphere, Australia gets hit with their flu season during the months of June, July, and August. Researchers find a marked correlation between the severity of Australia’s flu season and the flu season in America several months later.
The good news is that this year’s flu season in Australia was relatively mild. Experts are hopeful that the US will mirror that trend as we move into the winter months.
Still, it’s always a good idea to take precautions, which we’ll discuss next.
5. What Practical Steps Should I Take?
Here’s a quick list of how to best protect yourself and your family in the coming months.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
Disinfect sink handles, doorknobs, and other commonly used surfaces.
Use a humidifier to decrease your chances of infection.
Monitor flu activity in your area so you know if there’s an outbreak.
Whether this year’s cold and flu season is mild or severe, your best bet is to prepare for the worst.
6. What Should I Do If I Get Sick?
What if, despite your best efforts, you or your family members get sick?
Limit contact with others as much as possible. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever disappears (without the use of fever-reducing medication).
Be sure to cover your nose and mouth whenever you sneeze or cough. Immediately throw the tissues into the trash where no one else will come in contact with them.
In most cases, the flu will resolve on its own. Sometimes, though, your symptoms may warrant a call to your doctor or a visit to the urgent care clinic.
If your fever lasts for more than three or four days or is accompanied by a severe headache or a stiff neck, you should seek medical attention. The same goes for yellow or green nasal discharge with chest pain or shortness of breath.
7. What’s New in This Year’s Flu Vaccine?
Every flu season, the vaccine is updated to match the most common viruses circulating.
This year’s vaccine is no exception. The B/Victoria component was changed to reflect the latest flu strands, while the influenza A(H3N2) component was also updated.
Anyone non-pregnant between the ages of 2 and 49 seeking a vaccination may opt for nasal spray flu vaccine. This is called “LAIV” or live attenuated influenza vaccine.
Trivalent vaccines this year will protect against the following strains of flu virus:
A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
A/Singapore/INFIMH-16-0019/2016 A(H3N2)-like virus
B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus
If you opt for a quadrivalent vaccine, it will also include protection from the B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus.
Final Thoughts on Cold and Flu Season
There’s nothing you can do to avoid the cold and flu season.
But with the right knowledge and preparations, you’ll have a better chance of keeping yourself and your loved ones healthy all winter long.
Interested in more ways to boost your overall health and wellness? Check out our recent post on all-natural ways to stay healthy.