When Cuffing Season Becomes Coughing Season

Written by Susan Helmick, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College

woman in bed head peeking out from under the covers

The recent temperature drop has made it clear that fall is here. Crisp conditions set the stage for sweater weather and cuffing season, the so-called inclination to seek out a romantic partner to pass the time until spring arrives. You’re feeling warm from the flame of a rekindled relationship, or wait, is that a fever? 

Unfortunately, you haven’t caught feelings, you’ve caught the flu. Didn’t see that coming, did you? Like an Ex who can’t take the hint, the flu keeps returning. For most, the highly contagious respiratory illness results in unpleasant symptoms like fever, chills, body aches, headache, and fatigue and can last up to a week. For others, it can lead to serious health complications like pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and even death, especially in those with existing medical conditions and others at high risk. 

Though the flu vaccine isn’t a guarantee against the virus, it is a crucial step in preventing or lessening the length and intensity of the illness and the incidence of hospitalizations, particularly among vulnerable populations like the young, elderly, and individuals with underlying health conditions. But can it reduce the length and intensity of an ill-advised winter fling? 

Flu Statistics in the United States (Cue Dramatic Music)

  • In the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates that there were 38 million flu illnesses, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 flu-related deaths in the United States. 
  • During the 2020-2021 flu season, the numbers were significantly lower, partly due to COVID-19 precautions but also because of the flu vaccine, with only 1,675 flu-related hospitalizations and 646 deaths,  
  • The 2021-2022 season saw the flu’s resurgence, with an estimated 19 million flu illnesses and 13,600 deaths. 

The takeaway is flu season, like cuffing season, is unpredictable, and its consequences are sometimes severe. 

Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots! (No, not That Kind): The Benefits of Getting a Flu Shot 

  • Reduced Risk of Infection: The flu shot reduces your risk of getting the flu by up to 60 percent, which is better odds than your average situationship has of surviving. 
  • Protection of Vulnerable Populations: It's not just about you; it's about keeping your friends, professors, and neighbors safe, especially those who can't fight the flu. 
  • Community Immunity: Widespread vaccination creates a protective shield around communities, making it harder for the flu to crash the (holiday) party. 
  • That Exam Won’t Take Itself: The flu shot helps you dodge the virus and avoid missing crucial classes or coursework. Now dodging the ex, however, is your responsibility. 

But that’s not all!

In addition to getting a flu shot, here are other ways you can protect yourself from the flu: 

  • Hand Hygiene: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or after coughing, sneezing, or touching anything suspicious, like an online dating profile. 
  • Mask Wearing: In crowded or indoor settings, wearing a mask can help reduce the risk of inhaling or spreading the virus. Masks are also great for hiding the facial expression you’ll make when your seasonal suitor looks nothing like their profile picture. 
  • Social Distancing: Maintain physical distance from individuals who may be sick with the flu. It's like giving your ex the cold shoulder (literally). 
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep to support your immune system. (The CDC is clearly unfamiliar with the graduate school schedule, but good luck!) 

Getting a flu shot is a simple way to protect yourself and those around you from the flu and curtail the risk of flu outbreaks on campus and at home. Make sure to combine the vaccine with other preventive measures like handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing to stay healthy during the upcoming flu season. Unfortunately, the vaccine is ineffective against the cuffing season.