The seasonal flu can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and — in many cases — dangerous. Taking steps to lower your chances of catching the flu this season is important, particularly during the height of flu activity from December to February. Here are five things that you can do to reduce your odds of catching the flu virus.
1. Get your flu shot
Ultimately, there’s no better way to reduce your chances of getting the flu than getting a seasonal flu shot. Vaccination against the flu has been shown to significantly decrease your odds of catching it; the flu shot will also make your symptoms less severe and lower your risk of hospitalization if you do end up contracting the flu. Keep in mind that the flu shot you got last year doesn’t cover you for this year, as the virus is constantly evolving.
Of course, not everyone can get a flu shot. While the CDC generally recommends that everyone over six months old gets vaccinated against the flu annually, some people are allergic to the vaccine. For those individuals in particular, following the rest of the strategies on this list is particularly important for preventing the flu.
2. Stay away from those who are sick
Practically, this means avoiding crowded places as much as possible; the more people there are in an enclosed space, the greater the chance that one of them is contagious. Do your part to prevent the flu from spreading by staying in if you experience symptoms (including a rapidly onset fever, chills and aching bones). Indeed, it’s best to even stay away from the emergency room absent a seriously high fever or trouble breathing; if you don’t have the flu, your odds of catching it are much higher in the hospital waiting room.
3. Wash your hands regularly
Cleaning your hands thoroughly and often can help safeguard you from germs, including the flu virus. Practice proper hand washing technique by using warm water and soap and vigorously scrubbing for at least 15 seconds. You should wash your hands this way each time that you cough or sneeze and before you eat. It’s also a good idea to keep an alcohol-based hand cleanser with you in your purse or pocket for those times when soap and water aren’t available,
4. Minimize contact with your nose, mouth and eyes
If you do come into contact with the flu virus this season, you’re much more likely to get infected if you touch your nose, eyes or mouth after touching something (such as a door handle or elevator button) that is covered with germs. Try to keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes — and as always, wash your hands regularly.
5. Maintain general good health habits
Regularly cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces at home or work — such as kitchen counters, desks and electronics — can help curb the spread of germs in general, particularly when someone has been ill. Taking steps to safeguard your health overall by getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking lots of water, getting exercise and managing stress can also make it less likely that you’ll catch the flu this year.
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