There’s some good news for people who have the flu or have frequent contact with someone who does: Whether in public places or your own home, there are ways to contain it. Take these steps to keep the germs at bay this season.
The best first step you can take is to get the annual flu shot. Each year, the vaccine is reformulated to be the most effective against that season’s expected flu strains. You can get it from your primary care doctor as well as at pharmacies and the health departments of many workplaces. The flu shot is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, and there are specially formulated shots for both infants and seniors.
Besides the vaccine, use some common sense to stay healthy. Wash your hands well—and frequently. Use soap and warm water, and scrub the fronts and backs of your hands, the fingernails, and between the fingers for at least 20 seconds.
Hand sanitizer is the next best option if you can’t get to a sink. Choose one that is at least 60 percent alcohol, and store small bottles of sanitizer in your bag, office, and car.
Flu viruses can continue to live on items that are touched by someone who is sick. They can survive for up to two days on nonporous surfaces such as doorknobs and the TV remote, and up to 12 hours on porous surfaces such as clothing and other fabrics. When someone in your household is sick, mitigate the spread of germs by using disposable towels, plates, and cups. Use the paper towel you’ve used to dry your hands to open the door of a public bathroom. Spray and wipe a disinfectant on doorknobs, remotes, computers, phones, and light switches.
Avoid people who are sick—or wash your hands more often—and take care of your own health so your immune system remains strong. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly. If you do become ill, protect those around you by coughing or sneezing into tissue. If you don’t have one handy, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, not your bare hands. Stay home from work—and keep sick children home from school. Rest and regain your health.