How Close Is Too Close During Flu Season?

Want to beat the odds of getting tagged with the flu? Given the severity of the current season, it may be a good idea to put some distance between you and the contagious culprit that peaks annually from December through May. 

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Where’s the safety zone? 
The virus is primarily transmitted from one person to the next through droplets emitted when we cough, sneeze or talk. These tiny particles can travel up to 6 feet after a cough, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Sneeze particles can be propelled 200 feet!

When am I most at risk? People are most contagious during the first three to four days of the flu. What makes things more complicated, however, is that even seemingly healthy adults who have been infected by the flu can be infectious one day prior to experiencing symptoms, and up to seven days after becoming sick, the CDC estimates. Individuals with weakened immune systems or children may remain contagious for longer periods. If you suspect you or a family member may have the flu, it may be best to consider staying home from work or school. 

Does the flu shot really work? The flu vaccine ups your game by reducing the risk from being exposed to the virus by up to 40 to 60 percent, depending on the seasonal flu illness that is in the community. While many misconceptions exist, immunization is the key strategy to protect yourself and others, particularly vulnerable infants, young children and older adults. 

Take proactive steps to help avoid influenza: 

  • Take care. Help your body stay healthy by getting plenty of rest, eating right and drinking fluids.
  • Wash your hands. Most people don’t do it well enough. Here’s how.
  • Minimize germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are particularly helpful in group settings. Choose products that contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Clean sweep. Use disinfecting wipes to sanitize high-use areas around your home, work and school. A few hot spots where germs spread include keyboards, door knobs, faucet handles and countertops.
  • Schedule checkups with caution. Clinic visits may expose you and your family members to more germs. The American Academy of Pediatricians issues guidelines for bringing children to the doctor’s office. Consider a germ-free virtual visit to connect with your doctor via computer or phone. 

Wondering whether you have the flu or just a pesky cold?  Review common symptoms here, and find more preventive tips here. If you suspect you have influenza, contact your care provider.