How bad will flu season be this year? 5 things you need to know

The flu season last year was one of the worst on record, and health officials are urging people to get the flu shot early this year.

Flu season runs through fall and winter, peaking somewhere in between December and February. “While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one season to another,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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An estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu-related complications last year, according to the CDC. CDC officials also recommend pregnant women get a flu shot because they are at high risk of developing serious flu illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization.

“Expecting mothers face a number of threats to their health and the health of their baby during pregnancy, and getting the flu is one of them,” said Allison Naleway, a study co-author from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. “This study’s findings underscore the fact that there is a simple, yet impactful way to reduce the possibility of complications from flu during pregnancy: get a flu shot.”

These are five tips to follow to prevent getting and spreading the flu:

1. Get the flu vaccine. It's not too late to get the flu vaccine, according to health officials. Flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of flu-related hospitalizations each year. While the flu vaccine can vary in how well it works, people who still get sick may have milder symptoms. You can go to any local pharmacy or your doctor's office.

2. Avoid people who are sick. Keep your distance from people who are coughing, sneezing or presenting other flu symptoms. People suffering from the flu should stay off from work until their symptoms subside.

3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth, according to the CDC. Wash your hands frequently.

4. Clean your cell phone. Disinfect surfaces that you touch frequently, which become a hotbed for germs. Disinfect your keyboard, cellphone, work phone, desk and other surfaces you touch often. Consider using hand sanitizer after touch doors in public spaces. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

» RELATED: 7 ways to prevent your child from getting the flu this season

5. Strengthen your immune system. A germ invades successfully and makes you sick, according to Harvard Medical School. Is it possible to intervene in this process and boost your immune system? "Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies," Harvard medical officials found. Healthy steps to build your immune system include:

  • Don't smoke
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • If you drink alcohol, only drink in moderation
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly
  • Try to minimize stress


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