Flu season is inevitable, but keeping yourself up-to-date and in the know when it comes to the illness could save you a trip to the doctor.

By Rachel Wermager
Updated January 18, 2019
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Close-up of a woman suffering from the symptoms of a cold outdoors during winter.

It’s the time of year when staying healthy is on everyone’s mind—it’s flu season. We wanted to know more about what to expect from this year’s flu season, and what steps to take to stay healthy, or get back into good health. Here's what George Vernadakis, senior editor of Everyday Health, had to say.

Do you have any predictions for how bad the 2019 flu season will be?

Flu season severity varies, and it’s hard to predict how bad it will be. Flu activity across the country has definitely picked up, and it’s expected to continue to increase in January and February.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of influenza-associated illnesses during the 2017-2018 flu season was the highest since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. There was an extended period of high flu activity around this time last year, and it remained high through March.

When can we expect flu season to hit its peak?

Seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May, although flu viruses are around all year. Usually, the flu season peaks between December and February.

Is it too late to get the flu shot?

The sooner you get vaccinated, the better because it takes a couple of weeks to become fully effective. That said, even though we’re well into this flu season, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. The vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity, but it can reduce symptom severity if you do get sick.

Who is most at risk this flu season?

There are certain people who are at greater risk for serious complications during flu season. That includes young children, seniors, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems.

How can people stay healthy, or lessen the risk of getting sick?

You can’t always avoid getting sick, but there are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk. First, get vaccinated. Good personal hygiene is also very important. Washing your hands properly helps prevent the spread of germs. The CDC recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds at a time.

Related: Natural Cold Remedies

Any tips for staying flu-free when someone in your home is infected?

Obviously, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid people who are sick. But, as the CDC points out, someone with the flu can infect others before they develop symptoms and up to several days after they get sick.

You should always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough. Also, make sure to disinfect any surfaces that may be contaminated. If you’re already sick, the CDC recommends staying home at least 24 hours after any fever subsides.

How can you tell the difference between the flu or a common cold?

Telling the flu and a common cold apart can be tricky because they share many symptoms. Cold symptoms tend to be milder and improve in a week to 10 days. Flu symptoms can last longer, be more severe, and lead to serious complications like pneumonia.

Any other crucial information people should know this flu season?

It’s important to remember that the worst of the flu season may be still to come. The CDC says there’s a greater than 95 percent chance the highest flu activity will come by the end of February.

So, people should get vaccinated if they haven’t already, take steps to reduce their exposure to germs, and see a doctor if they have flu-like symptoms and are at high risk for complications.


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