Autumn ranks as our country’s favorite season, but even it has its downside – namely, seasonal flu.

“People tend to minimize the flu,” said Sharon Lee, FNP-C, Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, YRMC PhysicianCare Family and Internal Medicine in Prescott Valley. “The flu is more than a bad cold that keeps you down for a few days. It can be dangerous, especially for children and older adults.”

Who should get an annual flu vaccine? Everyone six months of age and older should be vaccinated. It’s particularly important for high-risk groups: adults 65 and older, people with asthma and diabetes, and pregnant women.

Each year, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for flu-related illness. Here are five tips to prevent the flu so you can pull on your favorite sweater and head outside to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

1. Get the flu vaccine.
The flu virus is very contagious and can spread before you even have symptoms. While no one can predict when the flu season will peak, it takes about two weeks for antibodies to form after receiving the flu vaccine so getting your annual flu shot is important.

“The flu virus is most common during the fall and winter months, but it’s not unheard of for the season to stretch into May,” said Lee. “I recommend getting an annual flu shot when it’s available.”

The 2018-19 flu vaccine is available now. You can find a location to get vaccinated here.

2. Boost your immune system.
Your first line of defense against the flu is to keep yourself as healthy as possible. This means eating a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and practicing self-care to help eliminate stress.

3. Hydrate.
Drinking enough fluids may help defend against illness and assist in recovery if a cold or the flu comes knocking. Warm tea, soups and broths are soothing additions to your daily water intake and they will keep you well hydrated.

4. Keep your space clean.
Disinfecting common areas and frequently used items can kill cold and flu viruses potentially living on your phones, remotes or kitchen countertops. Disposable disinfectant wipes and paper towels are better to use than a sponge.

5. Stop the transfer of germs.
Our last, but definitely not least, flu prevention strategy is to use correct hand washing techniques and to understand how the flu virus is spread.

“The virus can enter the body through your eyes, nose and mouth,” Lee said. “Make a conscious effort to not touch those areas and encourage your children or grandchildren to do the same.”

When washing your hands, rub them together vigorously for 20 seconds using warm water and soap. Similarly, don’t share cups or utensils with others.

If you do come down with the flu, your healthcare provider may prescribe antivirals that can speed up the recovery process if taken within the first day or two of becoming sick. It’s also recommended you:

  • Stay home and avoid contact with others.
  • Wear a face mask or use a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes if you must leave home.
  • Wash your hands to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your symptoms, become very ill or are in a high-risk group.

What’s the good news about seasonal flu? It usually ends or weakens by spring, which is another favorite season.

To schedule an appointment with Sharon Lee, FNP-C, contact YRMC PhysicianCare Family and Internal Medicine in Prescott Valley at (928) 442-8710.