Flu Season

At any stage of our twenties, our lives are full to the brim. Some twenty-somethings are up to their eyebrows in paper deadlines and finals, others are busy nurturing budding careers, some are starting a family, and all of us are trying to maintain a healthy social life on top of it all.  There’s no time to press the pause button on our lives while we recuperate from illness, so it’s important for us to understand how to stay healthy during flu season so we don’t miss a beat in our busy lives.

First, a bit about the flu (health majors, feel free to skip ahead). The flu is often confused with the common cold or the “stomach flu,” but in actuality, influenza is caused by different viruses altogether and is typically much more severe. Flu is transmitted via the airborne route, spreading seasonally in epidemics. Common symptoms include fever, cough, a stuffy or runny nose, aching muscles, fatigue, and headache. Can you imagine studying for finals or powering through the work week with all of that going on in your body? Yuck.

Aside from common-sense prevention methods, like washing your hands regularly and avoiding contact with sick people, the flu vaccine is the best line of defense against illness. Receiving a vaccine is usually easy for students, as many student health centers offer them free of cost. The same goes for many workplaces, as it’s in their best interest to keep their employees healthy and happy. For non-students whose employers aren’t providing one, the best option is to find out if your insurance covers the cost of the shot or if your county health department is offering them for free. Getting vaccinated does more than protect you from illness; it also serves as additional protection for the people with whom you come into contact each day.

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Myths about the flu are just as much of an epidemic as the virus itself.  One of the most troubling myths is that the vaccine is dangerous.  The vaccine contains a different strain of the virus each year, but it’s inactive and does not carry any risk of transmission.  The only danger of the flu vaccine is an allergic reaction to the virus itself or the eggs used to grow it.  Also untrue is that the flu is only dangerous for the elderly, very young, or immuno-compromised. They may be more likely to be hospitalized because of the flu, but even healthy young people can be at risk from serious complications, such as pneumonia or a staph infection. Lastly, if you think wearing your North Face jacket and a winter hat will prevent illness, you are mistaken! The only relationship between cold weather and flu is that they happen to coincide. The cold itself causing illness?  Puh-leaze.

Staying healthy this flu season depends on how proactive you are now. If you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet, it’s not too late, as the epidemic typically peaks in February. If you think you don’t have time to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated, think about the time you’ll save by not getting sick!

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