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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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How to Prevent the Flu

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If you don’t make an effort to prevent it, odds are that you’ll catch the flu this season.

For most of us it means a couple of weeks out of work or school, then life goes back to normal. But the flu can be serious, even deadly, if you have a health condition like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.

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By Chris C. Anderson When your throat turns to sandpaper and every bit of food and liquid that goes down your gullet feels like it’s a bill trying to pass the Senate, unlike a politician you become more than eager to try to find a way to move things forward. A sore throat is a miserable thing to deal with. You don’t realize how many times you swallow during the day until every swallow becomes a painful undertaking. Mothers and grandmothers the world over hold the belief that gargling with warm...

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The trick is not to get sick in the first place. Here are proven ways to avoid the flu.

Get Vaccinated

Experts say the single best way to avoid the flu is to get the flu shot as soon as you can. The ideal time is early fall. But any time during the winter is fine if you haven't already done it.

The vaccine is designed to protect against the flu strains health experts believe will be most widespread each season -- for example, the H1N1 "swine flu." Some vaccines work against three flu strains -- you might hear them called trivalent. Others guard against four strains -- doctors will call them quadrivalent.

Know the Vaccine Types

The flu "shot" contains a dead virus. One kind that’s approved for people 6 months and older goes straight into the muscle. Another uses a smaller needle that only goes into the top layer of your skin. It's available for people aged 18 to 64.

The nasal spray, FluMist , contains a live but weakened form of the virus. It's approved for anyone between 2 and 49 who’s healthy and not pregnant.

Egg-free vaccines are for people between 18 and 49 who have severe egg allergies.

Fluzone is a high-dose version for those 65 and older. It’s better at protecting an older person's immune system.

Don't make excuses for skipping your flu shot. Your arm might be a little sore the next day. And you may feel a little achy or run a low fever afterward. But you can't catch the flu from the vaccine. It contains a weakened or killed form of the virus.

Build a Germ Barrier

It’s easy to catch the flu. When a nearby sick person sneezes or coughs, they send out a spray of virus-laden droplets straight to your open mouth or nose.

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