1. Get a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu vaccination is the single best way to prevent seasonal flu. Most people six months of age or older should get the flu vaccine.
2. Wash your hands well and often. After the flu vaccine, this is your next best defense against the flu. Lather up with soap, scrub for at least 20 seconds, and use hot water to rinse. If soap isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
3. Avoid close contact with anyone with the flu. If you’re sick, stay home, and isolate yourself from other household members. Avoid being around others who are sick.
4. Use disinfectant spray to keep surfaces that your hands might touch clean.
5. Don’t share food or “community” items. Don’t eat after double dippers, sip from someone else’s straw, share a drinking glass, or use a community hand towel.
6. Get plenty of quality sleep. Aim for at least 7 hours a night. Your immune system can’t fight the flu if you’re fatigued.
7. Practice proper stress management. Enjoy time with friends. Laugh. Listen to music. All of these things decrease stress hormones which can strengthen your immune system.
8. Use hot water to wash clothes and dishes. Studies show that washing dishes and laundry using hot water is 30 percent more effective at killing germs than cold water. Adding bleach to laundry can also help stop the flu virus from spreading.
9. Be physically active. Regular exercise helps lower your risk of catching a cold by strengthening your immune system. If you do get sick, you’ll likely experience milder symptoms and be sick fewer days. Keep in mind that too much exercise can weaken the immune system.
10. Eat well. Choose a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and healthy protein foods. They contain nutrients that help build a strong immune system.
Getting the flu vaccine and following these tips to stay healthy will help you prevent the flu and recover faster if you do get sick.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; National Institutes of Health; National Institute of Nursing Research.