While flu germs are around throughout the year, people most often get sick in the fall and winter months. In fact, flu season is generally at its peak between the months of December and February.
With additional concerns this year about COVID-19 continuing to spread, it’s more important than ever to reduce the burden on our hospitals by preventing the spread of the flu. Here’s what you can do.
Get your flu shot
The absolute best way to prevent the spread of the flu is to get the flu vaccine. People ages six months and older should get a flu shot annually. This is especially important for people who are at high risk of getting very ill from the flu, such as young children, people with chronic health conditions and pregnant women.
Health care workers and people who care for infants should protect themselves and others by getting a flu shot too. This lowers your risk of getting sick with the flu by 40% to 60%.
Stay at home when you don’t feel well
If you feel sick, isolate at home. Stay away from others as much as possible, including the people you live with. If someone else in your household is sick, limit your contact with them. Don’t share items like towels and dishes either.
You can spread the flu for up to five days after you start having symptoms, even if you’re feeling better. So, be sure to wear a face mask around others afterwards.
All of this is very important since the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are very similar.
Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
Flu germs can spread through the small droplets that come out of your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. Keep the germs from reaching others by sneezing or coughing into a tissue. Throw the tissue out right away and wash your hands well. If you can’t get to a tissue fast enough, turn away from others and sneeze or cough into your bent elbow.
Keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose
To infect you, flu germs have to get into your body. They usually enter through your mouth, nose or eyes. People often pick up flu germs by touching surfaces that have the germs on them. Then, they touch their eyes, noses or mouths and transfer the germs.
Experts say flu germs can live up to eight hours on hard surfaces. So, one of the best ways to not get the flu is to keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose as much as possible.
Wash your hands often
Keeping your hands clean is an excellent way to prevent the spread of the flu too. Use soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water aren’t available. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Soap up before and after you eat and after you use the bathroom. Also, wash your hands if you touch items that typical house germs, such as:
- Computer keyboards
- Elevator buttons
- Faucet handles
- Hand railings
- Light switches
- Remote controls
- Grocery cart handle
Keep your home clean
Don’t give germs a chance to live in your home. Regularly clean and disinfect areas where germs are likely to live.
- Cutting boards
- Desks and countertops
- Kitchen towels, cloths and sponges
If someone in your house has the flu, thoroughly wash their dishes and any other things they touch. Keep items like their dirty laundry and towels away from your face — and wash your hands.
Practice healthy habits
Forming some new regular health habits goes a long way in keeping you from getting sick.
Boost your immune system health by:
- Drinking about 2 liters of water a day
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes five days a week
- Eating healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables
- Keeping stress levels at a minimum and relaxing each day
- Getting seven or more hours of sleep a day or more if you’re a teen
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, which may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat or body aches, you should call your primary care provider’s office. You may be encouraged to complete a virtual visit.