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Preventing the Flu

The flu (influenza) is a contagious respiratory (breathing) infection that affects millions of people each year. It can lead to health complications, hospitalizations and sometimes even death. Although the flu can occur throughout the year in the United States, it peaks in the winter months.

At Banner Health, we want to help reduce your risk. Prevention is the best way to protect yourself and your family from getting the flu.

Why is flu prevention important?

Flu prevention is very important because the influenza virus spreads quickly from person to person. Tiny droplets made when a person coughs, sneezes or talks are easily breathed in if you are near someone with the flu. You can also catch the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

By following some easy steps, you can help protect yourself and others from the flu. This is particularly important for those at high risk of health problems, such as children under age 5, adults over 65, pregnant people and people with certain health conditions.

Here are several ways to help minimize the risk of catching and passing the flu to others.

Protection starts with prevention: Fight the flu

Here’s how you can lower your risk of catching the flu and passing it on to others.

1. Get vaccinated

The best way to stop the flu is to get an annual flu shot. The flu vaccine stimulates your body’s immune response to develop protection against the most common flu strains each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults and children over six months old get flu shots, especially those in high-risk groups.

The flu vaccine usually becomes available in the fall and is given either as a shot or nasal spray, depending on your age and any existing health conditions. If you haven’t been vaccinated this season, do so right away. If you are unsure, learning about myths and facts about the flu shot may help give you peace of mind.

2. Wash your hands

Washing your hands is very important to reduce the spread of viruses during cold and flu season.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom or being in public places. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

Read more about the importance of hand hygiene and how clean hands save lives.

3. Cover your coughs and sneezes

When coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow, not your hands. Throw away used tissues and wash your hands as soon as you can.

4. Avoid touching your face

Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth after you touch high traffic surfaces like door handles and countertops. Viruses easily spread this way.

5. Stay home when you are sick

Stay home if you develop flu symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, tiredness or headache. It’s not just better for you - it also helps stop the spread of the flu in your community.

6. Keep a healthy lifestyle

A strong immune system can help your body fight infections like the flu virus. Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, manage stress and do your best to get enough sleep each night.

7. Avoid close contact with sick people

If someone near you is sick, stay away from them as much as you can to lower your risk of getting infected.

8. Clean and disinfect surfaces

Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, school and work, such as countertops, door handles, light switches, keyboards and phones.

Do not share towels, utensils, drinking cups or other personal items. Make sure all items are washed in hot, soapy water before the next person uses them.

9. Follow public health guidelines

Stay up to date about flu activity in your community and follow guidelines from your local public health authority and the CDC to prevent flu outbreaks.

10. Talk to your health care provider

Not feeling well? Talk to your health care provider immediately if you experience flu-like symptoms or believe you’ve been exposed to the flu. If taken within 48 hours of catching the virus, antiviral medications may help you feel better more quickly.

Learn more about antiviral medications.

We can all help stop the flu. By taking these easy steps, you can protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors, especially those at higher risk of flu-related complications. 

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