Keeping the Flu at Bay: Ways to Reduce Your Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s flu season was considered severe based on the number of people seeking medical attention for this highly contagious respiratory illness. It also lasted for an extended period. This highlights the importance of being proactive in order to prevent the flu.

Nargiz Muganlinskaya, MD

“Flu activity often begins in October in the U.S., peaks December through February, and sometimes lasts as late as May. So now is the best time to take some preventive steps to protect yourself from getting sick this upcoming flu season,” says Nargiz Muganlinskaya, MD, who specializes in internal medicine at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

“The single best thing you should do each season is get a flu shot. Seasonal flu shots are created to protect against the three or four flu viruses that are expected to be the most common during a specific flu season. Last year’s vaccination won’t protect you,” Dr. Muganlinskaya explains. “Flu vaccines trigger the development of antibodies in the body that guard against the strains of flu contained in the vaccine.”

Although complete immunity can’t be guaranteed, there are some other ways to reduce your risk of infection from the flu. “Flu is extremely contagious, able to spread from one person to another within six feet via droplets produced when coughing, sneezing, or talking, or by touching contaminated surfaces,” she notes. “That’s why practicing good health and hygiene habits is a key line of defense against the flu.”

Here are a few ways to help keep the flu at bay:

  • Avoid close contact with those who are sick or other people if you are sick.
  • If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has disappeared.
  • Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing. Dispose of the tissue immediately after use.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without first washing your hands to ensure they are germ-free.
  • Disinfect surfaces that people come into contact with at work, school, or home.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of getting an annual flu shot, especially individuals who are at a greater risk of experiencing complications from flu. This includes young children, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65 years, and those with chronic medical conditions,” Dr. Muganlinskaya adds. “That said, there is no foolproof strategy for dodging the flu completely. Good health and hygiene habits can go a long way in terms of reducing your risk of infection.”

Annual Drive-through Flu Clinic

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center will hold its Annual Drive-through Flu Clinic on Sunday, Nov. 4 at the CCBC-Essex Campus from 8 a.m. to noon. Get a free flu shot without having to get out of your car. For more information, call 855-546-0972.