Flu shot 101: How to avoid the flu this year




(NC) Let's face it: being sick with the flu can be awful. And if you or a family member have other health issues, it can be a serious threat. The smartest thing you can do this flu season is avoid getting sick.

According to Ontario's Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robin Williams, the following tips will help make sure your family stays as healthy as possible this season.

1. The flu shot is the best way to avoid the flu: Getting the flu shot is the most effective way of avoiding the virus because it helps your body build the defenses it needs to fight the flu. Dr. Williams says the flu shot is a safe way to keep you and your family from getting influenza. Getting the shot for everyone over 6 months of age will also protect babies younger than 6 months who are too young to get the vaccine and are at high risk of developing serious complications from the flu.

2. Get the flu shot early: While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, during most seasons, influenza activity peaks in January or later. The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to fully protect, so it's best to get the flu shot early in mid-October so you are protected before influenza begins spreading in your community.

3. Incorporate the flu shot into your overall health plan: Even if you've received your flu shot, proper hygiene is an important way to guard against and limit the spread of illness. Consider these facts:

a. Viruses, like the flu, can live on your hands for up to five minutes and on hard surfaces that you touch with your hands – like countertops and telephones – for 48 hours.

b. If you don't have a tissue, coughing into your upper sleeve is best.

c. The flu virus usually enters the body through the eyes, nose or mouth. In fact, a simple sneeze can spread the flu up to six feet.

For more information about the flu, or to locate the nearest flu shot clinic to you, visit www.ontario.ca/flu.