Protect Yourself & Those You Care About: Take Time to Get a Flu Vaccine

The fall season ushers in many favorite things: cooler temperatures, football season, outdoor activities like hiking and camping, and one not-so-favorite thing – the flu. While you can’t keep the flu from invading your space, what you can and should do is protect yourself from flu by getting your flu vaccination this year and every year.

Did you know that last flu season nearly 60% of flu-associated hospitalizations were in people 18-64 years of age? Flu can be a very serious disease for anyone, including young, previously healthy adults. The flu season can start as early as October, most often reaches its peak in December or later, and can continue as late as May. Since it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide protection, CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive a vaccination before the flu makes its way to your community, family, and friends.

CDC urges you take three steps to protect yourself and those you care about this flu season:

1. Get your annual flu vaccination. The first and most important step to prevent flu is to get your flu vaccine every year. There are more vaccine options available than ever before, including one that uses a much smaller needle that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle, and a nasal spray that is available for people ages 2-49 years. If you are a father, it’s important for you to know that the nasal spray is the recommended preference for healthy children ages 2-8 years when it is immediately available and the child has no contraindications or precautions.

2. Take every day preventive actions to stop the spread of germs like flu. These include:

  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throwing it in the trash
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available
  • Staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone if you develop flu-like symptoms
  • Trying to avoid close contact with sick people, and if you are sick, trying to avoid being around others.

3. If you get sick with flu, take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. These prescription medications can make flu illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. The earlier you begin taking antivirals, the better. They work best if you start taking them within two days of symptoms first appearing, but they can be beneficial even up to 5 days after getting sick. This is especially important for a high-risk person who gets sick with the flu.

Here are a few things that may surprise you about the flu:


  • You can spread the flu to others before you know you have it. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
  • Coughs and sneezes can spread flu to others who are up to 6 feet away. Even if you don’t have direct contact with someone who has the flu, you can come into contact with the virus.
  • Vaccination to prevent flu is particularly important for people who have a chronic disease, even if it is well managed. If you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, you are at higher risk of flu complications, including hospitalization and sometimes even death.
  • Is your family expanding? A flu vaccine protects a pregnant mom and her baby for up to 6 months after delivery. Encourage pregnant women in your life to talk to their doctor or other health care professional about getting vaccinated. A flu vaccination is safe to receive during any trimester of pregnancy.

Don’t delay – make plans to get your flu vaccination today to protect yourself and those around you. CDC recommends you get vaccinated soon, ideally by October. However, getting vaccinated later in the season can still protect you as long as flu viruses are still circulating. You can find flu vaccine at a location near you at Then, join us in spreading the word about flu vaccination by posting a photo or video tagged with #VaxWithMe to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Vine, showing that you got your flu vaccine and encouraging your family and friends to do the same.

Dr. Jerome Tokars

View posts by Dr. Jerome Tokars
Jerome Tokars MD, MPH, is currently the Associate Director for Science in the Influenza Division, CDC. Dr. Tokars has worked at CDC for over 20 years in the areas of healthcare-associated infections, informatics, immunization safety, and influenza.  He trained in Internal Medicine and was in private practice for 9 years.  Dr. Tokars has degrees from the University of Michigan Medical School and Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.
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