As the days get shorter, it means summer is over and we’re heading into fall and winter which means cold and flu season is right around the corner. As we all know, staying healthy during the colder months can be difficult but there are steps you can take to protect yourself against the cold and flu. We’ve compiled a list of simple things you can do to help protect yourself against the cold and flu viruses this year.

How do I protect myself and my family members during cold and flu season?

Get a flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites the flu vaccine as the best way to protect you and your family from the various flu viruses that circulate each year. The flu shot helps to prevent the flu but, for people who are sick with the flu, it has been shown to make your symptoms milder.

Washing your hands

The most effective way to prevent the spread of the cold or flu is to properly wash your hands – it’s that simple. It is recommended to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds but if you don’t have a timer available, just sing “Happy Birthday” twice! If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer can also be substituted for hand washing.

Clean common areas and surfaces

Remember to frequently clean commonly used areas and surfaces in your home or office (ex. doorknobs and handles, computer keyboards, and handrails to name a few) with a household disinfectant.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is a great way to boost your immune system and reduce stress. Studies have shown that individuals who exercise regularly get fewer colds or the colds they do get end more quickly.

Stay home

If you’re coughing or sneezing or running a fever, stay home until you start feeling better. The CDC recommends staying home until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours to ensure you are no longer contagious. The extra rest will help your body recover and you’ll also help stop the spread of the illness.

As there is no cure for the common cold of the influenza virus, prevention remains the best strategy for minimizing the impact these viruses have on our lives. Proper hygiene can be an extremely effective prevention strategy, especially for high risk individuals, that can help protect you and others. If you do get sick, don’t be afraid to take a day off and stay home. Remember, we’re all in this together!