7 Tips for Preventing the Flu (from a pharmacist)

Written by Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh | Posted November 23, 2020 | Updated February 10, 2023

Influenza, aka the flu, is an illness of the respiratory tract caused by two main types of influenza viruses. Type A and Type B influenza viruses are the main culprits of the dreadful seasonal flu epidemics we experience yearly. The flu is real and should be taken seriously because it ranges from mild to severe infections. The worst of infections could even lead to hospitalization or death. Read on to learn how to prevent the flu, protecting your family, yourself, and your neigbors.

1. Get a flu shot. Just do it!

If you have a child older than 6 months, the best thing you can do to protect your family from the flu is to have everyone get vaccinated before the end of October each year. There's no conspiracy theory here: just science. Get the flu shot and save lives. I have administered hundreds of flu vaccines as a pharmacist with none of my patients reporting serious side effects. I repeat: Don't be scared to vaccinate. It’s actually scary to not be vaccinated as annual flu-related deaths have reached as high as 61,000 people.

Related: Should I get the flu shot this year?

Flu vaccines are fragile and are safely kept in the refrigerators at your local pharmacies. Go to https://vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine today to find your closest pharmacy or clinic where you can get vaccinated.

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2. Avoid close contact with sick people.

Whenever possible, avoid close contact with people who are sick or showing flulike symptoms like coughing or sneezing. Think twice about spending too much time in confined spaces with large groups of people as it is in these situations of proximity where the virus can spread rapidly. Try to remain six feet away from people at all times even if you have a mask on. When someone who is infected sneezes or coughs, respiratory droplets can pass through the air and contaminate your breathing.

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3. Cover your face.

It’s important to care for yourself but also others, so every time you need to sneeze or cough, be a hero, and cover your mouth and nose. The ideal way for coverage would be in a tissue, but be sure to dispose of the tissue directly into the trash after to help stop the spread of germs. If there is no tissue in sight, sneeze or cough into your elbow, not your hands. I see way too many people coughing and sneezing into their hands, this spreads germs, don't be one of those people!

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4. Wash your hands!

One of the most effective ways to prevent the flu is by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds. Always wash your hands after sneezing, blowing your nose, or coughing. Sometimes a sink is not available we all know that. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. I keep a hand sanitizer in my car, so every time I enter my car while running errands, I quickly sanitize before touching the steering wheel.

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5. Avoid touching your face.

Touching the nose, mouth, and eyes can easily spread germs, so it's best to avoid the temptations to touch. Regardless, wash your hands. It can help to wear a face covering to limit the amount of face touching done throughout the day. Next time you want to touch your face remember that if your fingers have touched a contaminated surface today. Yes, the flu virus can be spread through saliva, so avoid kissing your loved ones when experiencing any flu-symptoms written below.

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6. Clean and disinfect commonly-used surfaces.

It is important to clean and disinfect commonly-used surfaces often as they could be contaminated with the flu for up to 24 hours. Keep things clean to reduce your risk of infection. Wipe down things like doorknobs, phone chargers, fridge door handles, dining tables with a household cleaner often. If you desire to learn more about antimicrobial products registered for use against the flu check this out.

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7. Catch enough Zzz’s.

For your best chance at flu prevention, make sure your immune system is performing at its best by ensuring you get enough sleep every night. Adults should get between seven to eight hours of sleep daily. So make sure to relax each evening because there is no 100% way to prevent the flu but adequate rest will go a long way to protect yourself.

With that, go live your life! Don't stress so much about the flu, but practice these healthy habits described above to help you and the family stay protected. Please don’t forget about tip number one: that is the most important advice anyone will give you, everything else is simply supportive.

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Watch out for these common flu symptoms

  • Fever

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • Cough

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Body aches

  • Chills

  • Fatigue

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Does getting vaccinated give you the flu?

No! The flu vaccine does not cause flu illness according to the CDC. In general, flu vaccines are made with flu viruses that have been deactivated or killed, which means they are not infectious. Don’t let this myth prevent you from getting the flu vaccine this year.

It is important to know that although the vaccine protects you from the flu, it is still possible to contract the flu as there are many strains of the virus within communities each year. Also, it is possible to contract the flu more than once a year due to the various flu strains. However, be assured that the vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by 40% to 60%.

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Does the flu vaccine increase the risk of getting COVID-19?

There is no evidence that concludes receiving a flu vaccination increases your risk of a COVID-19 infection. Avoid the rumors, stick to facts backed by science, and get your flu vaccination annually.

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