Stay One Step Ahead of the Flu This Season

When is “Flu Season” Anyway?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season in the United States stretches from as early as October to as late as May. Peak flu season, however, typically lasts from December to March. Thus, right now, we are in the very midst of flu season.

What Should I Do to Avoid Illness?

Get your flu shot, and encourage your family to do the same. Even this late in the season, getting your flu shot is the number one action you should take to reduce the risk of harmful effects from the flu on yourself and on your family.
Embrace healthy habits of living. During peak flu season, it is more important than ever to prioritize eating nutritious food, staying hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day, making time for exercise, and getting enough sleep by sleeping for 7-8 hours every night.
Do your part to discourage the spread of disease. When coughing or sneezing, be sure to limit the airborne spread of disease by covering your mouth with your elbow or a tissue. Wash your hands frequently and well, by scrubbing with soap and water for at least twenty seconds. Use disinfectant products on surfaces that you and others touch frequently. Finally, when possible, avoid touching your face to prevent the introduction of germs from your surroundings to your body.

What if I Think I’m Already Sick?

If you suspect that you already have the flu, stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the disease, see your healthcare provider for assistance if necessary, and continue to get plenty of rest and water.

For further information, check out the source for this article at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

Vaccinations at St. Luke’s Medical

For most people, the first step of their vaccination journey began long before they knew the meaning of the word.  Even as adults, it is easy to receive or arrange for your children to receive routine vaccinations without understanding the science behind your actions.  Here at St. Luke’s Medical, you can receive both routine and travel vaccinations from our highly trained and gentle staff.  If you would like to better understand the science of vaccination before your appointment, then this article is for you.

How Do Vaccines Work?

The immune system naturally functions even without the aid of vaccines, protecting the body against pathogens that could lead to infection and illness.  However, your immune system is only capable of defending against pathogens that it already recognizes as harmful.  Vaccination is a way of training your immune system to recognize a previously unencountered pathogen as harmful to the body.  To do this, a safe form of the disease called the antigen is typically injected into the body.  Thus the antigen is usually a weakened pathogen, a deceased or inactive bacteria, or materials from the surface of a pathogen.

In addition to the antigen, vaccines also frequently include an adjuvant.  The adjuvant is more or less a red flag, signaling to the immune system that the antigen is dangerous.  Thus when the immune system encounters a vaccine, it quickly recognizes the new pathogen as harmful to the body.  In response, the immune system begins to build an adaptive immune response and primes immune cells to remember the new disease so as to respond more quickly to it in the future.

The Benefits of Vaccination

While individuals certainly benefit from vaccination due to increased immunity, vaccines do not only benefit the individual.  When enough people receive vaccinations, all of society benefits through herd immunity.  Herd immunity is when so many people are immunized against a given pathogen that it becomes extremely unlikely that the few unprotected people will ever come into contact with someone carrying the disease.  Indeed, the impact of many diseases which used to be common causes of illness and death such as whooping-cough, measles, tetanus, and polio has been greatly reduced through widespread vaccination.

Aren’t Vaccines Just for Kids?

While childhood certainly includes several rounds of routine vaccination, it is important for everyone to keep their vaccine record current. Two key examples are tetanus and influenza. In order to remain protected, adults need a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster shot every ten years. Additionally, the CDC recommends that all people receive the influenza vaccine at the beginning of each flu season. Despite the widespread availability, convenience, and affordability of the flu vaccine, however, around 60 percent of Americans don’t receive their annual flu shot according to the CDC. Since avoiding routine vaccinations puts you and those around you at greater risk of disease, what are you waiting for? Talk to your provider at St. Luke’s Medical to ensure that your vaccine record is and remains current.