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Flu prevention tips

Fall is for spooky decorations and spending quality time with family, but unfortunately, it also marks the start of flu season. Although complete immunity cannot be guaranteed, you can protect yourself and your family by following a few simple recommendations. Dr. Seema Csukas, Medical Director of the Georgia Market at CareSource, a nonprofit health plan, has a few important tips to share on ways to prevent the flu this year.

Receive a Flu Shot

Receiving a flu shot is the single best preventative action you can take each year to protect yourself. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in your immune system within two weeks of getting the vaccination. These antibodies protect against the most common strains of flu, but the flu shot does not cause the flu. “Influenza vaccine is recommended annually for all persons six months of age or older,” said Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of Emory Vaccine Center and a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine. “If you have a history of a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of it, it’s advised to not receive the influenza vaccine.”

Exercise Good Health Habits

Did you know the flu virus is able to spread from one person to another who are only standing six feet apart? The virus is dispersed via droplets that are produced when coughing, sneezing, talking or by touching contaminated surfaces. Simple steps can be taken to decrease the spread of the flu, such as avoiding close contact with sick individuals, washing your hands regularly, and disinfecting surfaces at work, school and home.

Consult Your Physician about Antiviral Drugs

If you’re deemed high risk and are concerned about getting the flu, talk to your primary care physician about antiviral medications. Although they require a prescription, antivirals reduce flu severity and also help with prevention. Once taken, they fight the virus and prohibit it from multiplying in your immune system, but antiviral medications should not be used as a replacement for the flu vaccine.

Build a Strong Immune System

An immune system works best when it’s healthy. To protect your body from viruses, proper healthy living measures need to be in place. Focus on consuming a nutrient-rich diet, exercising frequently, reducing stress and sleeping for seven to eight hours a night. Not only can these simple acts strengthen your immune system, but they also benefit your whole body.

Limit Cigarette Usage

The use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapes intensifies your body’s response to certain viruses, including the flu. When a virus is introduced to a smoker’s body, the immune system tends to exaggerate its response. During flu season, it’s best to quit smoking in order to maintain a calm immune system.

To help protect you and your family during flu season this year, CareSource provides coverage for necessary exams and immunizations. It can also provide you with transportation to remove barriers from getting proper health care. For more information, visit www.caresource.com.

Dr. Seema Csukas is the medical director for CareSource Georgia. Dr. Csukas has more than 20 years of experience in health care leadership, having served as the medical director for both Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Department of Public Health. She has also made extensive contributions in the field of neonatal, maternal and infant health policy.