Every year, the flu makes its way through our communities. It’s up to us to fight back and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.
The flu can cause millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths during an average flu season. But it doesn’t have to. We have some control over how bad our flu season gets. There are many simple steps we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from the flu.
10 Tips to Stay Healthy This Flu Season
- Get vaccinated. This is the best way to protect yourself and others from severe illness. Eligible Veterans can get a no-cost flu vaccine from a local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) location, or you can get them at local pharmacies and urgent care locations. You can also use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flu vaccine finder tool to find a location near you. If you’re on the fence about getting vaccinated, check out It’s Flu Season Again: Stay Protected and Get Your Annual Flu Shot for a breakdown of why it’s so important.
- Stay home. If you have a fever or flu-like symptoms, avoid going places if you can. The CDC recommends that you should be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school or work.
- Wear a mask. If you need to go out and aren’t feeling well, be considerate and put on a mask. This will help stop germs and viruses from spreading to others and can also help protect others around you.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. This is an easy and super important step to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. The best way to do it is to use running water, scrub with soap for 20 seconds, and dry your hands completely. If you don’t have access to these things, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Handwashing 101: Why It Matters breaks down how important this routine is.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These are the places where germs enter our bodies, so if we are carrying germs on our hands, there’s a good chance we’ll infect ourselves when we touch these areas.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. But not with your hand. Use a tissue that you can immediately throw away or do it into your elbow or the crook of your arm to avoid spreading germs.
- Clean and disinfect “high-touch” areas often. Kids’ toys, doorknobs, phones, keyboards, remotes, toilets and bathroom surfaces are good places to keep sanitized and clean.
- Practice healthy habits to help fight off illness.
- Get plenty of sleep. When our bodies don’t get enough sleep, we are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus and are likely to stay sick longer.
- Getting outside (if possible) and moving your body can help strengthen and prepare your immune system for illness.
- Eat well. Giving your body healthy foods, full of the vitamins and nutrients it needs, can help you fight off illness.
- Manage your stress. When your body is stressed, it produces cortisol which can suppress your immune system’s effectiveness at fighting off illness.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you’re taking care of someone who is sick, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. If you have coworkers or friends that are sick, encourage them to stay home or wear a mask when they’re around.
- Get some fresh air. When we’re all inside sharing the same air, germs and viruses can spread more rapidly. Open a window to ventilate enclosed spaces or try to step outside for a brief walk when you can.
Every fall and winter the flu makes its way through our communities. It’s up to us to fight back and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.