Flu shots and influenza prevention in January

Happy new year to all our anatomy blog readers! We hope you’re starting the new year in good spirit and with good fortune and health. And while we speak of good health, might we recommend getting a flu shot if you already haven’t? A common misconception is that January is too late to get a flu shot, but the reality is that the flu virus is still alive and kicking throughout the holidays, and you may be even more likely to catch the flu during the peak of flu season, in January or February, than during other months!

The influenza virus mutates into different forms all the time, and that’s why flu shots taken in previous years become increasingly less useful to the patient. A quick and obvious fix to that is to get a flu shot from your local physician. If you have health insurance, contact your provider to see if a flu shot will be covered. And if not, there are always cheap resources to gain access to a flu shot. Many pharmacies offer flu shots with special payment plans.

But what if you absolutely cannot get to a health center to get your vaccine? What if you have had adverse reactions to vaccinations in the past, and you’d like to prevent influenza some other way? Although there is never a 100% guarantee that you will be able to prevent the flu or flu-like symptoms such as a cold, there are some easy health practices you can adopt to make it unlikely that you will get the flu this season.

1. Wash your hands…wash them! Believe it or not, 80% of infectious diseases are spread through touching. The bacteria and viruses leading to the flu and flu-like symptoms can be everywhere–on desks, doorknobs, and even on your clothes! Be strict about washing your hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after doing tasks that may involve you touching many objects.
2. Don’t touch your face You may do this habit without hardly even thinking about it, but when your hands touch an object with contaminants, and then it touches your face, your risk of getting the flu is much higher than before. Your eyes, nose, and mouth are all germ entrance zones into your body, and it’s worth it to train yourself not to touch these focal areas, especially during the flu season.
3. Keep your house and workspace clean Even if you and the humans you’re normally around are not sick, there are many ways germs can travel to your furniture and carpet and stay there, waiting for someone to infect. Use a disinfectant cleaner regularly at home and the places where you work or study.As you can see, cleanliness is a big deal in flu prevention, and it pays to be careful with your hygiene this time of the year. Doing these tasks may not seem like a big priority for those with busy lifestyles, but it’s worth it in the long run, as sick time in bed is much more costly in your life. Lastly, don’t forget to follow standard health care practices–eating a balanced diet, sleeping normal hours, keeping stress to a minimum, and exercising–as these will keep your immune system up and running.


For more information about the flu, see our Understanding Influenza Anatomical Chart.

anatomical chart for understanding the flu virus
This anatomical chart shows ways to prevent the flu, what to do when you have the flu, and common questions and answers patients have including the difference between a cold and a flu.
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