ATLANTA — It's that time of year again: cold and flu season. Signs are up everywhere urging you to get your flu shot. But what if that's not an option for you?
11Alive viewer Bernadette had that very question, emailing the 11Alive Verify team, "What if you can't get the flu shot? What else can I do besides wash my hands a lot like everywhere! What extra precautionary measures can I do!"
To verify, we turn to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and infectious diseases expert Alana Sulka, Dir. of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases for Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale County Health Departments.
In response to our inquiry, a CDC spokesperson confirmed the center "recommends everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. If you have medical conditions that prevent that, confirm with your physician that there is not an alternative that would work with your condition."
The spokesperson shared the many vaccine options to choose from.
If you're wondering what reasons may prevent a patient from receiving the flu vaccine, Sulka shares additional insight.
"The biggest contraindication would be an allergy to something that's included in the flu shot," she said. "But then there are some chronic medical conditions that may lessen the likelihood you need to get that flu shot."
According to the CDC, such circumstances are rare, but considering such, what else can you do to protect yourself?
"Handwashing is really that critical step," Sulka said. "Flu is killed by alcohol-based sanitizer so that's a great alternative as well if soap and water aren't available."
Sulka said it's important people know that flu can contaminate surfaces.
"Some studies show [it] can live on surfaces for up to eight hours," she added. "So ensuring you're washing your hands frequently throughout the day is really important."
Other steps? Stay home when sick and avoid those who are sick. Sulka also emphasized that practicing good respiratory habits like covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing are equally important. Keep in mind that coughing into your inner elbow helps prevent surfaces from being contaminated further.
In addition, Sulka said to be mindful about disinfecting commonly used surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, computer mice and cell phones.
"But also adhering to the contact times on whatever cleaning agent you're using is really important," she said, adding that different cleaning products must be applied for differing amounts of time in order to properly kill pathogens such as influenza.
Ultimately, we can verify there are times people may not be able to get the flu vaccine, but the CDC says that's rare. Our sources verify simple healthy habits like covering your cough and washing hands often can also help keep you flu-free.
Learn more about healthy habits to help prevent the flu via the CDC's website.