While the flu is a common illness, it can be serious for some. Each year, the flu causes many hospitalizations and sometimes death. Getting vaccinated against the seasonal flu remains the best way to protect yourself and others from illness. Additionally, you can take many healthy actions to help stop the spread of germs that cause respiratory diseases like the flu.

Wash Your Hands Regularly

Good hand hygiene helps keep you healthy. Wash your hands often with soap and water. The CDC recommends you scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds before you rinse. A great way to keep track of how long you’ve been washing is by humming the “Happy Birthday” song two times.

When to wash your hands:
Wash your hands when they become dirty. It is important to remember that germs are invisible to the naked eye, meaning you can be carrying flu-causing germs on your hands without knowing it. Some important times to wash your hands include:

  • After using the bathroom
  • Before, during and after making food
  • Before and after eating
  • After coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose
  • After touching frequently touched surfaces like door handles, shopping carts, gas pumps and cash registers/card readers

You should not touch your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands. This allows germs to enter the body and cause infection.

Avoid Contact With Sick People

Many experts believe that the flu spreads by droplets made when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets cause illness when you inhale them into your lungs. Because of this, it is important to keep your distance from sick people. The CDC recommends keeping at least six feet between you and a sick person.

Stay Home If You Are Sick

One of the best ways to prevent spreading the flu virus is to stay home when you feel sick. When possible, stay home from work or school and avoid running errands when you feel ill. If you cannot stay home, practice good hygiene and other healthy habits, including:

  • Covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing: Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue to help contain germs.
  • Washing your hands and disinfecting frequently: If you share a space with someone, practice wiping down common surfaces often. Wash or disinfect your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching shared items such as staplers, door handles and keyboards.
  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth: To help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others, wear a cloth mask over your nose and mouth. This is especially important when you are indoors.

Disinfect Surfaces Frequently

While it is less common for the flu to spread by touching a surface with the virus on it, you should still disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home, work or school. Use disinfectant wipes to clean high-touch surfaces like door handles, light switches, countertops and phones.

Get Vaccinated

The annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the virus. While no vaccine offers 100% protection from illness, vaccines play an important part in keeping you from getting severely sick, being admitted to the hospital or dying. HealthLinc offers the annual flu shot at no cost to insured patients and uninsured patients with an office visit. The flu vaccine costs $25 for the uninsured without an office visit. You can schedule an appointment by calling 1-888-580-1060.