Influenza (the flu) is a respiratory infection caused by a number of viruses. Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and are worse than the common cold.
Flu season starts in October and continues until May in the United States, which means that you are especially at risk for contracting the flu season during those months. As the winter wears on, you become even more at risk until the flu season peaks in February. Although the virus can cause serious complications for the young and elderly, there is no need to fear the flu if you prepare yourself and take precautions before the season strikes.
Some people are more at risk to become sick with the flu, such as the elderly, very young children, and people with serious health conditions that compromise their immune systems. If you think you might be at any sort of risk, the best action you can take to avoid the flu is to set up an appointment to receive the vaccine, which is available in a number of forms. You can be vaccinated with a nasal spray, or an intramuscular or intra-dermal shot, which is administered just under the skin.
Receiving the flu vaccine will not guarantee that you will be flu free, but it significantly reduces the odds that you will contract the virus. There is a two week period after you receive the vaccine before it becomes fully effective, so you should make an effort to practice proper hand washing techniques and avoid contact with people who might have the flu. If you do happen to come down with the flu after being vaccinated, you will most likely experience a much milder version of the virus.
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