After months of battling COVID-19, it's exhausting to think ahead to flu season — but it'll be here before we know it. "While influenza can technically circulate year-round, in the United States, we generally begin to experience an outbreak beginning in the early fall (late September or early October), with some variability year-to-year," Michael Devine, MD, dual-board certified internist and geriatrician and co-founder of Devine Concierge Medicine, told POPSUGAR. Typically, cases continue "through the winter and into mid-to-late spring."
So, as in past years, expect flu cases to begin ticking up with the advent of pumpkin spice season, and be prepared for the virus to linger well into the spring, though cases should top out somewhere in between. "The heaviest burden of new cases — or 'peak season' — generally occurs between December and March each year," Dr. Devine explained. "The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been tracking this closely over the past four decades and, with minimal variability, the month of February almost always seems to be the most active month for new cases."
A little bit stressful, huh? Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent the flu, and you're probably doing most of them already.
What You Can Do to Prepare For Flu Season
You have a lot of tools at your disposal, and 2020 has been a viral outbreak training ground, so you're a pro now!
- Get the shot, and get it as early as you can. The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months gets the flu shot, provided you're not medically excluded or allergic. Reminder: you can get the vaccine for free.
- Practice social distancing, and wear your mask. Yep, COVID-19 prevention tactics work for this virus, too!
- Wash your hands. This is likely ingrained in your brain at this point, but let's keep it that way.
- Clean high-touch surfaces frequently to keep germs at bay.
- Shore up your immune system by getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water, eating nourishing foods, and minimizing stress.
- Stay home if you think you have the flu. If you're already working from home, you've got this in the bag.