It's flu season! Here's how not to get sick

Influenza, or the flu, is described as a highly contagious viral infection targeting the respiratory system. In tropical countries like Malaysia, it occurs all year round, with peak seasons occurring during October to January and April to June.

Signs and symptoms include coughing, stuffy nose, sore throat, diarrhoea/vomiting, prolonged fever, headache, fatigue and muscle pains and aches.

Complications of influenza may include pneumonia, sinus infections and ear infections.

The flu may be more devastating to vulnerable groups such as babies less than six months of age, adults who are more than 65 years old, pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, people suffering chronic illnesses and childcare or nursing home workers.

About three million of those infected globally each year will develop severe illnesses, resulting in half a million deaths.

Because of its potential severity, influenza shouldn't be regarded as a run-of-the-mill illness that you shrug off after a few days. It can lead to serious consequences in vulnerable individuals.

Hence, experts advise that flu vaccinations can help, especially those in vulnerable groups.

Vaccination costs less than treating the infection and its complications, and it significantly reduces chances of infection, hospitalisation and even the incidence of death due to complications.

It's recommended that you:

- Vaccinate your child as soon as he/she reaches the proper age (more than six months old).

- Children six months to eight years old need two doses for the first year they're vaccinated.

- Vaccinate yourself and your children annually for better protection against the latest influenza viruses.

- Emphasize good personal hygiene at home and at school.

- Live a healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced and nutritious diet, coupled with regular physical activity.

Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail is a consultant paediatrician & paediatric cardiologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association's Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. This article is supported by an educational grant from Sanofi Pasteur (Malaysia). For further information, visit The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.