Flu season in the United States typically starts in October and goes through February – this is when we see the majority of flu cases. In Texas, we see flu activity through May. While this is the typical timeline, it is possible to get the flu at any time of the year.
What is the flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an infection caused by influenza viruses that impact the nose, throat, and sometimes lungs. There are four types of influenza viruses – A, B, C, and D. Types A and B are the two main types that we see circulate in humans during flu season.
You can prevent the flu by:
- Washing your hands frequently – check out our resources on Scrub Up Tune Up!
- Physically distancing yourself from those that are sick
- Wearing a mask in public spaces
- Covering coughs or sneezes in the crook of your elbow
If you are feeling sick, staying home can help to reduce the spread of the flu.
Symptoms of the flu can include some or all of the following:
- Fever* or feverish chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body or muscle aches
- Vomiting or diarrhea (this tends to be more common in children)
*Not all people with the flu will experience a fever.
If you think you may be sick, consult with your healthcare provider for treatment options.
2023 Flu Season Vaccines
In addition to the preventative behaviors above, you may consider receiving a yearly flu shot. Flu shots are manufactured each year based on a few variables:
- Which flu viruses are making people sick
- How well the previous season’s vaccine did in protection
- Ability for the viruses to provide cross protection from other flu viruses
These variables help determine what the seasonal flu vaccine should contain to prevent severe illness. Flu vaccination has the capability of reducing the risk of flu illness by between 40 and 60%.
The 2023 flu season’s vaccine in the United States covers flu A(H1) virus, a flu A(H3) virus, a flu B/Yamagata lineage virus and a flu B/Victoria lineage virus.
Flu vaccines are recommended for individuals based on their specific situation, including age, pregnancy, health and immune status.
Flu vaccines cannot cause the flu. Vaccines in general produce an immune response, meaning that the vaccine causes your body’s defense system to prepare if you are exposed to the disease again. The flu vaccine either contains an inactive virus, meaning that the virus is no longer infectious, or has a component that resembles the flu and causes your immune system to respond as if it is the flu. There is also a nasal spray flu vaccine that contains a live virus – the virus has been changed during manufacturing so it cannot give you the flu.
Your body’s immune response can cause soreness or redness at the site of injection, headache, fever, nausea, or muscle aches. This is a physical response and lets you know your immune system is working!
Use this tool to find your local flu vaccine provider.
Infectious Disease Prevention
First and foremost, individuals with chronic diseases (like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease) can have a harder time recovering from the flu or have increased risk for more serious illness. Chronic disease can be combated with lifestyle changes, including meeting physical activity and nutrition guidelines.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity. This can be met by walking 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
- At least two muscle strengthening activities per week.
A recently published study followed about 600,000 American adults and found that those who met both physical activity recommendations were 43% less likely to die from the flu.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults:
- Eat 2 servings of fruit per day
- Eat 3 servings of vegetables per day
- Limit saturated fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars