How to Stay Healthy This Flu Season

Tips to Fight the Flu

Coming soon to a cubicle near you: The flu. Influenza has arrived, and many of your co-workers, friends and family have it, but aren’t necessarily taking measures to prevent spreading it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from the flu each year.

Protect yourself with tips from Northwestern Medicine Family Medicine Physician Ronald G. Severino Jr., MD.

Get the flu shot.

“Your annual flu shot is your first line of defense against influenza,” says Dr. Severino. “The vaccine is made from inactivated virus particles that are designed to protect you against the three or four strains of the influenza virus predicted to be the most common each year.”

If you have any allergies or health concerns, contact your physician first before getting vaccinated against influenza.

Keep your hands clean and to yourself.

Germs don’t jump ship on their own. The flu is primarily transmitted through contact with droplets emitted when you talk, cough or sneeze. The flu virus can live for hours on surfaces like doorknobs. If you touch a doorknob contaminated by the influenza virus and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you can infect yourself.

“Your second line of defense against the flu is good hand hygiene,” says Dr. Severino. Wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You should also avoid touching your face during flu season.

You can also do your part to avoid spreading the flu. If you suspect you are sick, don’t cough into your hands. Do the “elbow cough” to avoid spreading droplets contaminated with influenza. Don’t prepare food for others if you have the flu and similarly, don’t eat food prepared by others with the flu.

Learn more about the importance of hand hygiene to avoid the spread of germs and infection.

Clean and disinfect.

Your cell phone. Your computer keyboard. Doorknobs. Pens. The armrests on your desk chair. Keep these and other frequently touched areas clean during flu season to help prevent germ transmission.

Stay home.

“If you have the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to avoid infecting others,” says Dr. Severino. “Avoid close contact with others during this time.”

Flu and COVID-19 symptoms can be very similar and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

A test is the only way to know if you have COVID-19 or flu.

Talk to your physician to create a plan of action this flu season.

Where Flu Prevention Meets Your Life