It’s Flu Season – Tips for Staying Healthy this Year

September 29, 2014, 11:41am EDT

Outside temperatures are starting to get colder, which means flu season is right around the corner. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against the flu. Vaccination has many benefits including reducing the risk or severity of flu illnesses and hospitalizations, and even the risk of flu-related death in children.

Those at the highest risk for catching the flu are pregnant women, people who are over the age of 65, nursing home residents, and those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) at any stage, including patients on dialysis. Immune-suppressed people such as kidney transplant recipients, cancer patients on chemotherapy, and patients who are treated with steroids or other immune suppressing drugs are also at high risk of getting the flu.

People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) at any stage, including patients on dialysis and kidney transplant recipients, should only receive the flu vaccine by injection – nasal spray flu vaccine is not safe kidney patients.

For the most part, everyone older than age 6 months should be vaccinated with the influenza “flu” vaccine. There are some exceptions: if you are allergic to eggs, have experienced prior allergic reactions to the flu vaccine, or have had Guillian-Barre syndrome as a complication from a previous flu vaccine.

Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against 3 or 4 viruses that are most likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. It takes about 2 weeks for protection to develop after getting a flu shot.

Here are some tips for staying healthy during the upcoming flu season:

  1. Wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizers when don't have access to soap and water
  2. Get a flu shot – patients with CKD, including those on dialysis and kidney transplant recipients, should receive a flu shot. It’s a good idea to make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccinations including pneumonia and whooping cough. People over the age of 60 should also be vaccinated against shingles.
  3. Wear a mask and only greet others with elbows not handshakes and maintain social distancing during all interactions.
  4. Avoid crowds and public transportation and other places where people cannot practice social distancing.
  5. Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet so you stay well-hydrated and give your body proper fuel to help your immune system be the strongest it can be.
  6. Get moving and keep physically active to maintain your overall health. Instead of going to a gym, explore other options for being active. Try to stay outdoors for as long the weather is warm enough and work in your garden, rake leaves in the yard, go pumpkin and apple picking, and bike or walk around your neighborhood. You can keep track of your steps using a pedometer app and mileage tracker app for biking on your smartphone. Depending where you live, you should consider getting a stationary bicycle and treadmill so you can continue being active in your home throughout the winter months.
  7. Beware of daycare and try to avoid young children during the flu season. Children bring home many different viral and bacterial infections, which can be increase your risk of getting sick.
  8. Gastrointestinal illness, which is commonly referred to as the stomach flu, and can cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. If you have these symptoms, you should contact your physician.
  9. Monitor your temperature and blood pressure and call your physician if you have a fever, are experience shaking chills, extreme fatigue, body aches, or have a cough.