The Basics of Flu Prevention

Flu season comes around every year, and every year it causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths. Even otherwise healthy people can get seriously ill or even die from this infectious disease. So what can you do to help protect yourself, your family, and your community from flu? Follow these easy steps:

1. Get an Annual Flu Vaccine
Annual flu vaccination is the single best way to help protect against influenza. Because flu viruses can change every year, it’s important to receive a flu vaccine each and every year to help protect you against the circulating flu strains. A new flu vaccine is developed each year to better fight the circulating strains. The vaccine still provides the best protection available against flu, even when it isn’t well-matched to the circulating strains. Flu vaccines have been used for over 50 years and are safely administered to millions of people every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone six months of age and older receive an annual flu vaccination.

2. Wash your Hands Frequently, Especially During Flu Season
Flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. It’s important to wash your hands frequently to get rid of germs that you may come into contact with. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer. And try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and/or mouth with unwashed hands as germs, including flu viruses, can enter our bodies this way.

3. Do the Elbow Cough/Sneeze
Flu viruses can spread through tiny droplets in the air when we cough, sneeze, or talk. These viruses can travel through the air up to six feet away! Cough or sneeze into your elbow, rather than your hands, to help avoid exposing others to germs.

4. Clean and Disinfect Surfaces at Home, School, and Work
Because flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours, it’s important to maintain a healthy environment by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in your home, school, and office during flu season.

5. Stay Home When Sick
Flu symptoms usually start suddenly and may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common symptoms in children. As an infectious disease, flu can spread quickly from person to person. Therefore, if you or your child(ren) are sick, stay home to avoid exposing others. And seek medical treatment from a trusted healthcare professional if you suspect you are suffering from severe flu symptoms, as there are prescription antiviral medications that may help shorten the duration and severity of your illness.

Families Fighting Flu is a national, non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting children, families, and communities by raising awareness about the seriousness of flu and the importance of annual flu vaccinations. Families Fighting Flu advocates have experienced the devastating effects of the flu first-hand—either from serious illness or death of a family member due to the flu. To learn more about these personal stories and for more information about the flu and flu prevention, visit