7 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for A Pandemic-Era Cold & Flu Season

This year’s cold and flu season comes at a time where we’re already preoccupied with our health, thanks to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID numbers are starting to tick up as fall approaches, which has many of us reaching for our masks again and wondering just what we should be doing to keep ourselves safe and healthy this year. That’s especially true if you have or work with kids, because respiratory syncytial virus, aka RSV, is also a contagious respiratory illness to be aware of, and it’s known for being common among children. All of this might make it feel like picking up a cold or virus is all but inevitable this time of year, but there are definitely ways to decrease your risk of getting sick with the cold, flu, RSV, or COVID.

A lot of it will sound familiar — masking up, getting vaccinated, washing your hands, and employing your favorite immune-boosting strategies — but we know that between the multiple viruses and the many cold-busting strategies, it can feel like a lot to keep track of. That’s why we’re here to simplify things and remind you of a few key, easy things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy this year.

Get vaccinated

There are a few vaccines doctors are recommending this year. First up: the flu shot. If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccine yet, make an appointment to do so today (or check out local walk-in flu shot clinics, which can often be found at pharmacies). While the flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective at preventing influenza, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that it can reduce the risk of catching the flu by 40 to 60 percent.

“The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine,” per the CDC’s flu season prevention guide. “CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu illness, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.”

As for COVID? A new booster shot, set to be available soon, is expected to protect from severe health outcomes from the most common strains now going around. While the CDC hasn’t yet announced who the new shots will be recommended for, keep an eye out for news on the booster and make an appointment to get boosted as appropriate.

Finally, in more new vaccine news: an RSV vaccine is available this year for adults 60 years old and over, and a monoclonal antibody is available for infants and young children — all groups that are at higher risk for severe RSV. According to the CDC, both treatments are one dose only. (FYI: Both vaccines and monoclonal antibodies protect against infections, but in different ways. Vaccines provide “active immunity” to boost the body’s natural ability to fight an infection, while monoclonal antibodies provide “passive immunity,” meaning the antibody itself is providing protection rather than the immune system. )

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