Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Flu Prevention Strategies


Build a Germ Barrier continued...

Or, you can pick up the flu virus from touching a surface -- like the restaurant table where a sick person dined before you. Flu germs can linger on surfaces for up to eight hours.

When you touch a contaminated surface and then put your hands on your eyes, nose, or mouth, your fingers transport the germs straight into your body.

You can try to avoid sick people, but that's not always easy to do, especially when you're in close quarters like movie theaters and malls. If you can't steer clear of the virus, at least use good hygiene to create a barrier against flu germs.

Here are some important hygiene tips you can use to do that:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap every time you shake hands or touch a surface that might be germ-covered.
  • Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for times when a sink isn't available.
  • Bring along disinfectant wipes to clean any surfaces you're about to touch.
  • Take extra care to not touch your mouth, eyes, or nose without washing your hands first.

Sharing is wonderful, but not during flu season. Be stingy with your utensils, plates, glasses, and anything else you touch with your mouth. Wash used dishes and utensils in the dishwasher or in the sink with hot water and soap.

Stay Healthy

If you want your immune system to be in good enough shape to fight off the flu and other germs, you need to stay healthy. Take steps like these:

All these will give your body the strength it needs to fend off an impending influenza attack.

Quit Smoking

In addition to everything else smoking does to your body -- from increasing your cancer risk to giving you premature wrinkles -- it could make you more susceptible to the flu.

There is evidence that smokers get more flu infections than nonsmokers. When they do get sick, smokers tend to have a more severe infection and have a higher risk of dying from the flu.

Protecting yourself against the flu is just one more reason to talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking.

Take Your Medicine

Taking all these steps should keep you pretty well armed against the flu. Still, even the best defense isn't perfect.

In case you do get sick, ask your doctor about antiviral flu drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). They can help you get better faster. But you need to take them within the first two days of getting sick.

If you do come down with the flu this season, be considerate. The flu is contagious for up to a week after you get sick. Don't share germs with your friends, family, and co-workers.

Follow these tips to keep the flu from spreading to others:

  • Stay home until you are feeling better and your fever has been gone (without the help of medicine) for at least 24 hours.
  • Whenever you sneeze, do it into your elbow -- not your hand, where you can pass it around.
  • After you blow your nose, throw out your used tissues. Don't leave them lying around for someone else to find.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on November 18, 2013
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
blowing nose
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Health Check
Boy holding ear

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

woman receiving vaccine shot
Bacterial or Viral Infection
How To Calm Your Cough
Sore Throat