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What Puts You at Risk for the Flu?

Are you at risk for catching flu during the next flu season? What about your family members or colleagues? Are they at risk for getting flu?

What Increases my Chances of Getting the Flu?

With all the media warnings about flu season, you may be wondering what sorts of things increase your risk of catching the flu. First, if you don't get immunized against the flu, you may have a higher chance of catching it. According to the CDC, the number-one way to prevent flu is to get an annual flu vaccine.

Because the strain of flu virus changes over time, the influenza vaccine changes annually. That's why it's important to stay current and get a flu vaccine each year -- preferably during the months of October or November or before flu season begins.

Where Can I Get a Flu Shot?

The American Lung Association offers an online flu vaccine clinic locator. Visit the site, enter your zip code and a date (or dates), and receive information about clinics scheduled in your area.

There's also a nasal flu vaccine called FluMist, which contains weakened live viruses. People with HIV/AIDS and other medical conditions that weaken the immune system should not receive the live influenza vaccine. FluMist is approved for use among healthy persons between the ages of 2 years and 49 years. Also, the CDC now recommends the nasal spray vaccine for healthy children 2 through 8 years old when it is available.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Flu Shot: Influenza Vaccine and Side Effects.

Also, see WebMD's What Is FluMist?

Can Certain Lifestyle Habits Increase my Chance of Flu?

If you have poor lifestyle habits, your body's immunity may be compromised. That can result in a greater chance of catching the flu. In addition, the chance of getting flu may increase if you have family members or coworkers with flu and you touch germ-laden surfaces (doorknobs, phone receiver, computer mouse, countertops) that they have touched.

Taking better care of your health by eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep, and managing your stress may help boost immune function and, thus, reduce your chance of flu.

What About Hand Washing and the Risk of Flu?

Frequent and thorough hand washing is crucial to reducing the risk of flu. Be vigilant about washing your hands throughout the day. Teach your family members to do the same. Keep hand sanitizers with you at all times in case you are unable to get to a sink to use warm water and soap to wash your hands.

Is my Young Child at Greater Risk for Flu?

Children under age 2 years are at high risk for flu-related complications. As infants and young children grow, they are always battling with ongoing viruses and bacteria as their immune systems develop. In fact, it's normal for a young child to get as many as six to eight colds each year, along with ear infections, sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and croup. When a young child is sick frequently or has a weak immune system, the child has even greater risk for catching the flu virus and having complications.

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