Stopping the flu starts with you
Sniff, cough, AHEM!
These not-so-sweet sounds are a sure sign that flu season is here.
Flu season normally lasts from October until May and peaks between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The flu is extremely contagious and can be dangerous for some.
However, there are some things you can do to prevent the spread of the flu. Here are four of them:
- Get a flu shot now
“Roll up your sleeve, please. Just a quick pinch and a burn and … there! Done.”
In that span of time, you could have received your flu shot. In fact, getting a flu shot is the best thing you can do to prevent getting the flu.
Flu shots not only help you stay healthy, they help others too. The flu vaccine creates something called “herd immunity,” where those who receive the shot prevent the spread of the virus, thus protecting those who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons.
A flu shot is necessary every year to protect against the flu virus as it changes.
“There’s a lot of false information circulating about the flu shot, the biggest one being that it gives you the flu. It’s just not true,” says Dr. Stacey Cummings, a pediatrician at Geisinger Pediatrics in Danville. “The vaccine you receive is a dead form of the flu virus, based on which strains are supposed to be the most common this season. It takes two weeks to become effective. If you do develop flu-like symptoms after getting your flu shot, they should last less than three days. If you develop the flu, it just means the vaccine did not have enough time to take effect before you got sick.”
- Keep your hands to yourself
If you’re trying to avoid the flu, start with your own hands.
Wash your hands throughout the day, especially before eating. Be conscious of what you touch and wipe down surfaces that collect germs, such as keyboards, doorknobs and phones. Most importantly, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
“The flu virus loves to hang out on surfaces like countertops, keyboards and phones. If you happen to come into contact with the virus and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you may end up with influenza. We all touch our eyes and mouth — try to be as mindful as possible during flu season to avoid the spread of germs,” Dr. Cummings says.
- Watch where you sneeze
Sneezing is a highway for germs. When someone sneezes on the train, in the office or at home, the germs are thrown into the air, and anyone who breathes them in can be infected. So can anyone who touches where they land.
The best way to avoid infecting others is by sneezing into the crook of your elbow. This helps keeps germs trapped somewhere other people likely won’t touch. If you sneeze into your hands, germs are easily passed when you open a door, shake someone’s hand or use a railing.
- Stay home when you’re sick
That deadline at work is approaching … faster … faster … then … uh oh. You get sick. What now?
“It’s no problem, I can still make it to work,” you tell yourself. But having the flu is a bigger problem than you think. Heading into work sick poses a risk to you and to everyone around you.
“The flu shares some common symptoms with your average cold virus, so it’s easy to shrug it off as just another cold and go about your business. The flu is contagious, and serious. If you’re experiencing any flu symptoms, such as a fever, chills, muscle aches and sinus congestion, stay home. Don’t go to work, school or any place where you might infect others,” says Dr. Cummings.
It’s easier than ever to get your flu shot
Getting your flu shot is easier than ever for Geisinger patients. We’ve got many ways to receive your flu vaccine.
- Stop by your Geisinger doctor’s office any weekday beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3, during regular office hours. No appointment is necessary.
- Have kids age 9 or older? Stop by any Geisinger Careworks location 7 days a week, during regular business hours. No appointment is necessary.
- Adults can walk into select Geisinger CareSite Pharmacy locations any weekday, during regular hours and request a flu shot. No appointment is necessary.
- Directly schedule an appointment with your Geisinger provider through myGeisinger or by calling 800-275-6401 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. (say "flu shot" when prompted).
- No locations near you? Find a Geisinger Health Plan participating pharmacy.