Fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, cough. Yes, its that dreaded time of the year again..flu season. Although flu can occur at any time, it is most seen most frequently during the months from November through May.

The flu is caused by the influenza virus and it is spread through coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions. Anyone can get the flu and for most people it only lasts a few days, however elderly, young children and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system can become much sicker.

The CDC ( Center for Disease Control) recommends getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available so protection is there in case the flu season comes early. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine as their number one defense against the flu.

It is especially important for those of higher risk of contracting the illness, for instance those in healthcare or those coming in contact with elderly or young children, to get the vaccine. For those with severe medical conditions or a weakened immune system, immunization prevents the complications of the flu that can lead to hospitalization or death.

Vaccines are already available in a number of pharmacies, the health dept, and physician’s offices.

Even if you get the vaccine, there is still a chance of contracting the flu. Influenza viruses are always changing and each year scientists try to make the vaccine according to what viruses they predict to see in the upcoming flu season. So through the winter months, it is also very important to boost your immune system.

1. Increase intake of nutrients that are essential for a healthy immune system like vitamin C and zinc.

2. Decrease you intake of sugar which can decrease your white blood cells which are your line of defense against illness.

3. Make sure you are getting enough protein which is necessary in forming antibodies to help fight disease.

4. Monitor your stress. High levels of stress can weaken an immune system.

5. Wash your hands frequently. Germs are everywhere, especially in places that are used by a multitude of people like banks, ATMs, gas pumps, grocery stores, gym or art classes.

6. Eat foods that boost immunity like garlic, onions, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, red and yellow fruits and vegetables.

7. Drink plenty of water.

8. Get plenty of rest. Fatigue can lower your defenses.

If you or a loved one gets the flu, please take the necessary precautions to prevent its spread. Stay home if you have any flu symptoms. The CDC recommends at least 24 hours or until the fever is gone without using medications. Everyone will be much happier that you are keeping the flu germs home with you. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. Teach your children to do the same, especially at school where the germs can spread fast through supplies used. Always cover your cough or sneeze, preferably not with your hands, to prevent spread of droplets.

For those 65 or older, or with long standing health problems can go one step further and ask their physician about getting the Pneumonia vaccine as well.

Awareness and prevention are very important factors to staying healthy. Protect yourself and your family this flu season.