Tips to Prevent the Flu

Last updated: May 17, 2022

Child sneezing in tissue imageInfluenza or “flu” is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. The flu virus is contained in secretions from the nose and respiratory system of a person who has the flu. Viruses get in the air when the person sneezes or coughs. Covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue, mask or even a sleeve reduces the airborne virus. Flu viruses can also get on surfaces. When a person touches a surface contaminated with the flu virus and then touches his nose, mouth or mucus membranes, he can contract the flu.

Wash your hands!!!

Hand washing is one of the easiest and best ways to prevent infection and to avoid getting or passing on the flu virus. Use alcohol based hand sanitizers if washing facilities are not handy. Teach children how to wash hands properly. See Hand Washing.

What is proper hand washing?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) offer these instructions for proper hand washing:

  • Wet your hands with warm, running water and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously together for at least 20 seconds.
  • Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Leave the water running when you are finished rinsing. Then dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel. Use the towel to turn off the faucet and to turn the door knob.

More information on Hand Washing.

Protect yourself from the inside. Get immunized!

Vaccination is effective in preventing flu, but not 100 percent protective. The flu shot must be repeated each year. Flu Vaccine Clinic Information

Sometimes there is not enough vaccine available for everyone who wants it. Follow the tips below for protecting yourself, your family and your community.

General Tips to Avoid Flu

    • Avoid close contact with sick people.
    • Get a flu shot every year if it is available to you.
    • Travelers may need shots out of season. These may be available from travel medicine clinics.
    • Keep your environment clean and comfortable.
    • Wash your hands often.
    • Carry tissues and hand sanitizers.
    • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated public places.
    • Spend time outdoors when you can.
    • Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
    • Don’t smoke.

If you are sick with the flu, follow your doctor’s advice.

Self-care Tips:

  • Unless your doctor says no, use acetaminophen for aches and fever, and use decongestants and cough remedies for respiratory symptoms.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Hot drinks can be very soothing. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Chicken or other light soups may help. Don’t “starve a fever.”
  • Keep your home at a comfortable temperature and humidity.
  • Humidifiers have pros and cons, so check with the doctor.
  • Aviod using heating pads or hot water bottles. People can get burned.
  • Rest and get lots of sleep.

Infection Control:

  • Wash your hands often, and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Use tissues to control secretions and dispose of them after each use.
  • Keep frequently touched surfaces sanitized.
  • Weather permitting, open windows and drapes occasionally in the daytime.
  • Call rather than visit your doctor for advice.
  • Stay away from others as much as possible, especially those at high risk.
  • Don’t go to work or visit hospitals or nursing homes. (Stay at Home Toolkit for Influenza – PDF)
  • If you need to go to a health care facility, ask for a mask.
  • Avoid crowds or poorly ventilated public places.

When others are sick

Care Tips:

  • Keep the sick room and the patient clean and comfortable.
  • Assist the patient in getting medical advice and help.
  • Watch for high fever, dehydration, changes in consciousness, shortness of breath, chest pain, severe vomiting or any other serious symptoms.
  • Children with the flu should avoid aspirin. Follow the doctor’s advice on remedies.
  • Humidifiers have pros and cons so check with the doctor first.
  • Aviod using heating pads or hot water bottles — they can burn people.

Infection Control:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid unnecessary close contact with people with flu.
  • Consider wearing a surgical mask while in the same room.
  • Supply tissues and sanitizers and the other things they need.
  • Keep frequently touched surfaces sanitized.
  • Avoid touching your own mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Don’t share utensils, water bottles, toothbrushes or other personal items.
  • Encourage the sick person to stay home if possible.
  • A child should not be sent to day care or school while sick (Parent’s Guide to School Health).

More information:

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