Brisk mornings, earlier sunsets and changing leaves: These are all indicators that fall is upon us. Another aspect of fall that we cannot forget is that it also marks the beginning of cold and flu season. We already know how important it is to wear a face mask, practice social distancing, and wash our hands frequently because of the coronavirus. This fall season we need to be proactive about maintaining our health in other ways as well.

State Sen. Susan Deschambault Courtesy photo

We know that people often have go to the doctor or even the hospital because they have the flu virus. This could put a strain on our medical resources this fall and winter, because of the extra care and support already needed to treat patients during a pandemic.

We can better protect against getting the flu by getting vaccinated. Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended, “to get your flu shot as soon as your health care provider tells you it’s appropriate, or as soon as you can in the near future,” when he was interviewed at a web panel recently.

Dr. Shah has already led Maine so well in its effort to combat the coronavirus. If this trusted public health expert advises us to get our flu shot, we should listen to him. His guidance matches the U.S. CDC’s advice. People over the age of six months should receive a flu shot, and people over the age of 65 might need to receive a special type of flu shot based on their age. To find out more information about the flu virus, click here.

Where can you get the flu shot? Like Dr. Shah said, your health care provider is a good resource. However, there are other easy and free ways to get a flu shot. You can go to www.vaccinefinder.org to find where to get a flu shot near you. Many local pharmacies provide flu shots as well. If you are concerned about costs or access, please call 211 or go to 211maine.org.

Places such as Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center at 35 South St. in Biddeford offer free flu shot clinics.

Other ways we can take care of our health this fall season is by continuing to take COVID-19 seriously and practicing healthy habits. I know it’s been more than six months that we’ve had COVID-19 in Maine. We need to keep working together as a community to continue to counter the spread of COVID-19 and make sure it doesn’t worsen. And, as always, we can take care of ourselves and prevent the flu or a cold by hydrating with water, eating our fruits and vegetables, and moving our bodies.

During the time of the pandemic, we talk a lot about honoring our local heroes, especially first responders and health care workers. Just like wearing a mask is sign of respect for them and our community, taking care of our health and getting a flu shot are other ways we can show respect.

If you have any questions about how to get a flu shot, or anything else, do not hesitate to reach out. My office number is 207-287-1515 and my email is [email protected]

Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman. She can be reached at [email protected]