Can You Prevent Catching the Flu?


Daniel Haight, MD

Another flu season is upon us and many of us are geared up for a Florida winter.

We know it’s miserable to catch a cold or the flu when it is so hot, and sometimes I think these germs hang on a little longer because they know we are not huddled together for warmth. I guess the germs have to make a living too and they need those opportunities to spread. But we do a lot to stop them.

In addition to stocking up on chicken soup, we know that good nutrition and rest can help us stay healthy especially during the aftermath of a busy holiday season. Everyone should encourage friends and family to stay home if they have a fever or when feeling their worst since that is when they are most contagious.

We can stop a cold or the flu in its tracks by washing our hands, especially before we touch our eyes or nose because that is how these germs get inside us. They go from one person’s mouth or nose onto their fingers and then onto surfaces we touch. But alcohol-based hand sanitizer or good old soap and water easily rid us of these germs when used properly.

Planning ahead also means getting flu vaccinations yearly. They are safe and effective, with over 120 million people getting this protection in the U.S. every year. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months old and there are a few options to choose. For those over 65 years old, there is a stronger version of the regular flu vaccine that stimulates more protection. For those allergic to eggs, there is now a version of the flu vaccine that does not use egg in the manufacturing process.

Although the nasal spray is no longer available, it is important to vaccinate children yearly. Not only does it protect them, but it also helps stop the spread of the flu to anyone they are close to who could get seriously ill with the flu. Sometimes grandparents and other relatives have other illnesses that prevent the flu vaccine from protecting them, so loved ones should also be vaccinated.

The flu vaccine can never cause the flu, but it does take a couple of weeks to start protecting someone. In the meantime, a person could catch the flu or a serious cold. It is never too late to vaccinate – the sooner the better. Recent observation also found that those who received the flu vaccine also had a lower risk of heart attacks and if pregnant, had more successful births.

Flu vaccinations are provided with no appointment at any of Lakeland Regional Health’s primary care locations. To find a convenient location for you and your family, click here.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Go Red for Women, Mayo Clinic News Network, March of Dimes

About the Author

Dr. Daniel Haight is Vice President of Community Health and Medical Director of Infection Prevention for Lakeland Regional Health in Lakeland, Florida. He is a Board Certified infectious disease physician and was named to the Best Doctors in America list for 2015-2016. He previously served as Director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County and is a Past President of the Polk County Medical Association.