It’s also a time of sniffling and sneezing, and if you are really unlucky, fatigue and body aches and tummy upsets.
Yes, it’s flu season. And it’s no coincidence that we are in the midst of both National Influenza Vaccination Week and National Handwashing Awareness Week.
The two go hand in hand, you could say. As does winter, which begins in three weeks, just as everyone is enjoying the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, planning and visiting with family and friends.
Nobody wants to miss out on all the fun. Or exchange illnesses with loved ones instead of presents on the big day when everyone gathers together.
But there is good news. The Monongalia County Health Department still has flu vaccines available. You can make an appointment to get one by calling 304-598-5119.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention likes to point out that a flu vaccine is still your best bet against catching the flu. This year’s vaccine is a quadrivalent, meaning that it will protect against what health officials believe will be the four flu strains most likely to be circulating this season.
Just about everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot. Exceptions could be people with egg allergies, although they can talk to their doctor to see if it’s the right choice for them depending on the potential severity of their reaction.
Pregnant women, those who are 65 and older and people with compromised immune systems should seriously consider getting a flu shot. An expectant mother passes the protection on to her unborn child, who cannot be inoculated for the first six months of life. And the elderly and those with illnesses such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and emphysema are more at risk for flu complications. Sinus and ear infections can be mild complications. Pneumonia and hospitalization are more serious ones.
While getting your flu shot is the primary way to avoid the flu, a great ancillary measure is common-sense cleanliness. You should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom and blowing your nose; flu season is a good time to step up those efforts and be extra vigilant.
Things to avoid include: sick people, going to work while you are sick, touching your eyes, nose and mouth and coughing or sneezing into your hand. Elbows come in handy when you want to cover a sneeze and do not have a tissue handy. Fun fact: I’ve changed check-out lanes when I’ve witnessed a clerk exhibit the aforementioned behavior that sent germs into the hands that would be touching my items. You can never be too careful. And you can bet I wipe down my cart handles when I enter the store.
As for washing hands, soap and water is best with 20 seconds of scrubbing. If you are not near a sink, hand sanitizer is better than nothing.
So make this holiday season about the holiday, and not coughing, sneezing and missing out on all the fun. Get your flu shot and practice good health habits this winter.