- Wash your hands often. You can pick up cold germs easily, even when shaking someone's hand or touching doorknobs or handrails.
- Avoid people with colds when possible.
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue and then throw the tissue away.
- Clean surfaces you touch with a germ-killing disinfectant.
- Don't touch your nose, eyes, or mouth. Germs can enter your body easily by these paths.
Eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep also play a part in preventing colds and the flu because they help boost your immune system.
A flu vaccine can greatly lower your chance of getting the flu. The best time to get the vaccine is from the middle of October to the middle of November when it first becomes available. The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the influenza vaccine. It's best to get the vaccine when it first becomes available (in October or November), but you can also get it any time throughout the flu season (into December, January and beyond). The vaccine, available by shot or nasal spray, works by exposing your immune system to the flu virus. Your body reacts by building up antibodies to the virus to protect you from getting the flu. The flu shot contains dead viruses. The nasal-spray vaccine contains live but weakened viruses. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot, but you may feel sore or weak or have a fever for a few days.
Some people who get the vaccine still get the flu, but usually get a milder case. The vaccine is especially recommended for:
- people 65 or older.
- nursing home patients.
- those over 6 months old with health problems, such as. asthma, or with long-term diseases, such as HIV or heart disease.
- children or teen-agers who must often take aspirin.
- people who are often around older people or those with health problems.
Talk to your doctor before you get the shot if you:
- have certain allergies, especially to eggs.
- have an illness, such as pneumonia.
- have a high fever.
- are pregnant.
If you are one of those who should not get the flu shot, ask your doctor about prescription medicine to help prevent flu. And if you get the flu, taking this medicine within the first 48 hours can make your illness less serious. But don't take antibiotics; these won't work against cold and flu germs.