There are several things that you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu at home, school, or work. If you work in a healthcare setting, click here to learn more about preventing flu in healthcare facilities.
- Influenza vaccination is the primary method for preventing the flu and its severe complications for individuals over 6 months of age. Protection develops about two weeks after getting the vaccine and may last up to a year.
Keep Your Hands Clean
- Clean hands are another important factor in preventing the spread of disease, including influenza.
- Hand hygiene is a general term that refers to a method of removing germs from the hands so they cannot be spread to anyone else. The two most common types of hand hygiene are hand washing with soap and water and using an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Soap and water should be used when hands are visibly dirty, contaminated, or soiled, after using the restroom, and before eating or preparing food.
- Alcohol-based hand rubs are products that kill germs on the hands. They are fast-acting, convenient, and generally can be used for all situations other than the ones described above. Be sure to use hand rubs that contain 60-95% ethanol or isopropanol (types of alcohol).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Practice Good Respiratory Hygiene and Cough Etiquette
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Promptly throw away tissues after they are used.
- If a tissue is not available, cover your cough/sneeze with your elbow or sleeve, not your hand.
- Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
- If you are sick, maintain a safe distance (at least 3 feet) from others or wear a surgical mask, if you are able to tolerate it, especially if you are at a doctor’s office or a location with others who may be at high risk for getting the flu.
Stay Home if You’re Sick
- If you’re sick, avoid contact with other people unless you are seeking medical care. Don’t share glassware, silverware, or personal items with healthy people in your household.
- Don’t return to work, school, or other activities until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
- When you go back to work or school, continue to cover your coughs and sneezes and keep your hands clean.
Use Antiviral Drugs if Recommended by Your Doctor
- If you have the flu or have been exposed to the flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug for you to take. These are most effective when given early in the illness.
- When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lesson symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They can also prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia, especially in the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, or those with high risk medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease.
- Antiviral drugs are different than antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections. Antibiotics are not effective against influenza. For more information on the appropriate use of antibiotics, see CDC’s Get Smart website.
Keep Your Environment Clean
- If taking care of yourself or a sick person at home, make sure that you clean and disinfect surfaces and objects (such as kitchen counters, bedside tables, children’s toys, and surfaces in the bathroom) that may become contaminated with the influenza virus, especially if you have others at home who are not sick.
- Wipe these surfaces down with an approved household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
- Clean linens, eating utensils, and dishes used by the sick person thoroughly before reusing. You do not need to wash items separately. Wash linens (such as bed sheets and towels) with laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Avoid “hugging” laundry to your body before washing it to prevent contaminating yourself.
- “Cover Your Cough” poster
- Frequently asked questions about respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette
- Hand hygiene websites:
- Nonpharmaceutical interventions (CDC)
- Seasonal flu educational materials (CDC)