Grab your “flu-coat” | Pepe

It’s raining outside. Better grab an umbrella. It’s cold outside. Better grab a jacket. It’s flu season.

It’s raining outside. Better grab an umbrella. It’s cold outside. Better grab a jacket. It’s flu season.

The flu vaccine protects you from the flu just as your raincoat would from the rain. While there are many ways to decrease your risk of getting the flu, an annual flu vaccination is a very effective one.

The flu vaccine is generally effective for six to eight months. Since the flu virus spreads from the East Coast to the West Coast, the flu tends to significantly affect us in the Pacific Northwest later in the fall and winter, and commonly extends into April and May. That makes now – October to early November – the prime time to get your flu vaccine.

Most everyone should look to get vaccinated, but it’s especially important for people who are at high risk of developing complications if they get the flu. Those populations include:

• People with certain medical conditions, including diabetes and asthma;

• Pregnant women; and

• Young children and those over 65 years of age.

The vaccine is not approved for children six months or younger, and if you’ve had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past or are currently sick, it’s best to consult your physician before getting vaccinated.

While some claim it to be true, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. You may, however, experience side effects that vary depending on if you received the flu shot or the nasal spray.

These may include fever, muscle aches or headache. Side effects are usually mild and will subside quickly.

The flu is a determined virus, so it’s still possible that you may get seasonal flu even if vaccinated. Adding preventive steps to your daily routine can help you build an even better defense.

• Get adequate amounts of sleep, limit your alcohol intake and eat a healthy diet to keep your immune system strong.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and discard the tissue immediately after using.

• Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Sing one slow verse of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” while you wash your hands as a test to see if you’re washing long enough.

• Avoid close contact with sick people.

Despite your best efforts, you may still get sick this season. Make sure you’re fully stocked with over-the-counter medicines, tissues, and your go-to sick foods and beverages to avoid having to make trips to the store when you’re sick and contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

While getting the flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get sick this season, it does add a cozy – and much needed – layer of protection as we head into winter. In fact, according to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces by 60 percent the risk of developing flu illness that results in a visit to the doctor’s office. If you’re not sure where to get vaccinated, check with your local pharmacy or your physician about flu clinics in your area.

Dr. Harry Pepe is a physician practicing with PartnerMD, a Bothell medical practice specializing in concierge-style primary care and executive physicals. Pepe has broad experience in family and urgent care, and his special interests include disease prevention and building relationships with patients who take an active role in managing their overall health. He is a cycling and hiking enthusiast and resides in Kenmore.

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Dr. Harry Pepe is a Bothell Reporter Contributor. To contact him send an email to or call 425-780-4800.