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A student receives a flu shot at the Health and Wellness Center.
Photo by Austin Simpson/Staff Photographer

Brittany Guimond
Campus Reporter

Though not an identifiable season on a calendar, flu season occurs during the cold half of the year and creates commotion whenever it comes.

As flu season approaches, many pharmacies begin advertising vaccination opportunities and other methods to minimize the spread of flu. The key to prevention is to start early and be prepared for the season according to Angela Blackwell, pharmacist at the CVS location on campus.

“Flu season starts around the end of September,” Blackwell said. “The best time to start getting immunizations is somewhere around two to three weeks before this time period. Here, we like to say better proactive than reactive.”

The annual vaccine for flu is developed in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after receiving information on the yearly flu strand from China, which sees its effects first. Then, a specific vaccine is formulated which is tailored to those symptoms, making annual vaccination crucial, according to Blackwell.

In fact, in some cases it is better to either get the vaccine early or not get it at all.

“If your body is already fighting the vaccine, and you get actual flu on top of that, you are going to be in even worse shape than without the vaccine,” Blackwell said.

However, while early prevention is crucial, it is not the only step to be taken, nor is it the end of the world if someone does not receive a vaccine. Hygiene is just as important when it comes to keeping one’s body healthy, not only for flu season, but as an everyday aspect of life, according to Blackwell.

Things such as washing one’s hands frequently or using hand sanitizer, as well as keeping one’s immediate environment clean are crucial to limiting the amount of bacteria one encounters, therefore lowering the risk of flu or other viruses. According to Blackwell, this becomes especially important for students who are on campus frequently.

“Your risk of getting flu is highest when you are often in tight spaces with other people,” Blackwell said. “This is why many students get flu, due to living in small dorms together and being in busy classrooms for hours at a time.”

Some students can attest to this firsthand.

“I was hospitalized due to flu at the beginning of this semester,” said Dalton Campbell, a freshman in chemistry. “The doctor’s orders to prevent it from happening again were to wash my hands regularly, sterilize common surfaces like computers or counters, take more vitamin C and cover my mouth when sneezing or coughing.”

According to Dr. Mickie Powell, Ph.D. in biology, it is important to “wash your hands and cover your cough” and while it may seem a simple method, limiting the spread of bacteria and receiving vaccinations is what flu prevention is all about.

Brittany Guimond can be reached at bguimond@uab.edu.

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