Flu Season: What is It and Why Does it Happen?
Posted on 19 November 2015
WHAT IS FLU SEASON?
Flu season is annually recurring and characterized by the prevalence of outbreaks of influenza (flu). It occurs during the cold half of the year in each hemisphere. Influenza activity can sometimes be predicted and even tracked geographically.
WHY IS THERE A FLU SEASON?
The timing of flu season is a little hard to predict. Except for one thing: it always happens in winter. In fact, everywhere on Earth where people have a winter season, they also have a flu season.
There are a number of reasons why:
- People spend more time indoors, with the windows closed, breathing each other's air.
- Less sunlight (i.e. lack of Vitamin D and melatonin) and cold of winter weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to the virus.
- The flu virus thrives in the cold, dry air of winter, but suffers in the warm, humid air of summer.
FLU SHOT FACTS
The Center for Disease Control recommends everyone above the age of 6 months have a seasonal flu shot unless there is a medical reason why they should not.
"Flu vaccines are developed to anticipate what influenza strains might be most common during an upcoming season. This may sound hit-or-miss, but even so it is still useful,” says Little Leaves co-founder, pediatrician Dr. Carley Gomez-Meade. “The flu vaccine challenges your immune system, giving it a 'boost', and there may be cross protection to other strains."
Even so, it’s important to know that flu shots are never 100% effective.
- No flu vaccination is 100% effective
- The average effectiveness is 50-60% in preventing contracting the flu
- 2014 was one of the worst flu seasons in history, with only 13% vaccine effectiveness because the vaccine targeted the wrong flu strain and because the flu virus mutated leaving the vaccine less effective.
It takes about two weeks for the immune system to get ready, so people should get as soon as possible.
It’s common sense that people in good health are likelier to stay healthy, and those who do pick up a bug will recover more quickly and completely.
Dr. Gomez-Meade explains:
Fatigue, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet all take a toll on the immune system.
Stay well rested.
Manage your stress through meditation and exercise, which will also help you keep physically fit enough to fight off any viruses you might encounter.
Same goes for eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water.
How Flu Spreads: How the virus is spread to others and how long it is contagious
Flu Symptoms and Severity: Flu symptoms and risks of complications
Treatments: Drugs for treating the flu virus, caring for someone with the flu
Flu Basics: Symptoms, how Flu Spreads, Higher Risk Groups, Past and Current Flu Seasons
Questions and Answers: Answers to Flu-Related Questions