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Flu Season Gets Early Start This Year

Flu season is just around the corner and the American Red Cross wants everyone to know that the best way to be protected against influenza is to get a flu vaccine. It takes approximately two weeks to have maximal protection, so get your vaccine early to be protected throughout the season.

The highest number of flu cases is usually reported in January or February, but doctors can begin to see cases this early in the season. Flu vaccine supplies are plentiful and available in many locations such as your doctor’s office, pharmacies, grocery stores and health departments.

“The best way to help avoid getting the flu is to get a flu vaccine,” said Dr. David Markenson, chair of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and pediatric expert. “Everyone six months of age or older should get a flu vaccine, especially pregnant women, those younger than five and age 50 or older, those with certain chronic medical conditions, people in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, health care workers and teachers. Those who care for or are in contact with children less than six months of age should also be vaccinated.”

In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu. Parents can also practice these things with their kids to help keep them well as they settle into the new school year:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand-rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

If you think you have the flu, your health-care provider should be consulted. Seek medical care immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
  • Confusion or sudden dizziness.
  • Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).
  • Fever with a rash (children).
  • No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).

Businesses can learn how to prepare for potential flu outbreaks by becoming members of the Red Cross Ready Rating™ Program at This free, web-based program helps businesses, schools and organizations measure how ready they are to deal with various emergencies and gives customized feedback on how they can improve their efforts.