Your Flu Prevention Checklist for Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
When flu season rolls around, it almost feels normal to expect at least one person in your household will get sick. And whether you’re usually the one who comes down with something or you’re the person who takes care of a family member with influenza, the flu knows how to make its presence known. But it doesn’t necessarily have to.
Are you ready to see some change in the typical flu timeline this year? You can take some key steps to stop the seasonal cycle of sickness by keeping yourself and your family healthy by applying the tips on this helpful checklist.
Flu Prevention Checklist: 10 Key Steps
Flu prevention starts with adopting a variety of healthier new habits. Incorporating these actions into your daily routine can set you on the right path towards slowing the spread of influenza and decreasing your likelihood of infection.
- Wash your hands often. Whether you’re at work, at school, at home or in public, make sure you wash your hands often. Everything that you touch, be it a ketchup bottle at a restaurant or a light switch at work, may have germs on it that can make you sick if you transfer the germs from your hand to your eyes, nose or mouth. When washing your hands, use plenty of soap and hot water and wash them for at least 30 seconds.
- Carry hand sanitizer with you. There will be times when you or your family aren’t able to wash your hands while you’re out and about. Make sure you have a bottle of hand sanitizer with you that’s easily accessible. Small bottles are available, and some come with keyring attachments so you’re less likely to lose them. Give one bottle to each member of your family so they can stay germ-free wherever they go.
- Avoid touching your face. Even if you wash your hands often, you should still avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These are the parts of your body where germs are most likely to enter. If you have to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean or use a clean tissue as a barrier between your face and hands.
- Keep your family as healthy as possible. Make sure that you’re all eating a well-balanced diet, are drinking plenty of fluids and are getting regular activity.
- Up your intake of vitamin C to give your immune system a boost. The healthier you keep your body, the more effective it will be in fighting off bacteria and viruses.
- Avoid contact with those who are sick. This may be easier said than done, especially if your children or elderly parents are ill and you’re responsible for caring for them. But if this isn’t the case, try to avoid contact with any friends, family members or coworkers who may be sick. The less you’re around them, the less likely you are to get the flu.
- Keep plenty of tissues on hand. Stock up on tissues and make sure everyone in your household has easy access to them. Ensure you cough or sneeze into a tissue to reduce the transmission of germs into the air where people can breathe them in. You should immediately dispose of the tissue in the garbage, and you should also then wash your hands. If you feel a sneeze coming on but the tissues are nowhere in sight, sneeze into the crook of your elbow. If you use your hands and don’t wash them quickly, you can easily spread germs to the things you touch.
- Stay home if you start to show any symptoms. If you begin to feel under the weather, take the day off and get some rest. The earlier you nip the illness in the bud, the quicker you’ll recover. Besides, you don’t want to spread the flu to anybody else.
- If possible, breastfeed if you have a newborn baby. The best way to protect a newborn from the flu is to breastfeed. Antibodies that you already have can pass to the baby through breastmilk and can help them stay healthy throughout flu season.
- Get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated — with a few exceptions. The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine becomes available in your area. Although mild side effects like headaches, soreness and a fever may arise after you get vaccinated, in most cases it’s better to have the protection that the flu shot provides.
The Basics About Flu Vaccinations
Getting an annual flu vaccine will reduce your risk of coming down with the flu. It’s best to get vaccinated as soon as possible. However, vaccinations are available throughout flu season — which usually spans autumn and winter in the United States — and it’s never too late to have those benefits.
Flu shots contain inactive versions of the main viruses that cause seasonal influenza. There are a few different virus types that each year’s vaccine contains, and these are administered via a shot. The nasal spray flu vaccine contains weaker versions of active viruses. It’s suitable for young (ages 2 to 49 years), healthy, non-pregnant people. It’s administered via the nose, meaning you inhale a specially formulated mist version of the vaccine.
It takes about two weeks for your body to develop antibodies to the flu virus after you’ve been vaccinated. But it’s still important to remember and apply the prevention tips above to reduce your risk of contracting or transmitting flu and other viral illnesses, no matter your current vaccination status.
Medical content reviewed by Dr Samantha Miller, MBChB