Young Adults are Getting the Flu: Here’s How to Reduce Your Risk

As college-aged kids return home from school for winter break, they may be bringing the flu home with them. The flu was nearly non-existent in 2020, but data shows the virus is back in a big way – and young adults are the ones getting sick. Permanente adult and family medicine physician Jason Singh, MD, spoke with WJLA about the best ways for people of all ages to lower their risk of getting the flu this season.

“Eighty percent of the cases are amongst young adults. So, 5-24 years of age and that’s absolutely it right there,” Dr. Singh said. “Going to college, work, getting together… that’s where the cases are really rising and those are the folks that are bringing it back home and putting our elderly patients or those with chronic conditions at risk.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young adults consistently have the lowest flu vaccination rate in the United States. When you add that to the close quarters at college campuses, Dr. Singh said it is “a perfect storm for infections to increase and transmit.”

“What I usually tell my patients is, the vaccine minimizes complications from the flu. It doesn’t prevent you from having it. It’s kind of like wearing a seatbelt, right? You can still get into a car accident, but the seatbelt protects you from getting severe injury,” Dr. Singh said.

Dr. Singh said the best way to lower your risk of getting the flu is to get your flu shot, practice proper handwashing and take vitamins to fortify your immune system.

“Washing hands is incredibly important. Most of the germs are on your hands and the hands-to-nose sort of touch, so just washing your hands frequently and just making sure you are favoring a robust immune system,” Dr. Singh said. “What that means is taking your vitamin C, your Zinc, your echinacea and turmeric. These are all evidence-based and shown to build a better immune system and protect you from various infections like the flu.”