It’s important to protect yourself from getting the flu. We’ve put together some tips on how best to prevent the flu.

According to the CDC, each year, 5 to 20% of people in the United States gets the flu. Finding ways to prevent the flu should be key to maintaining your health and happiness.

That’s easier said than done, though. The influenza virus spreads through the air, so it travels from person-to-person via droplets made during coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread by surface contact, when one person deposits the virus on a hard object and another person touches it and then touches their own nose or mouth.

Here are 8 things you can do to help decrease the spread of flu this season:

1. Get a flu shot.

Influenza vaccines work by exposing the immune system to weakened versions of the three or four flu virus variants that experts expect will spread that year. They can’t give someone the flu, although some recipients may have mild symptoms like swelling around the injection site and low-grade fever. These symptoms are much easier to manage than the real flu!

You can get your flu shot at Mac’s Pharmacy! We make it easy for everyone to get a flu shot, which leads to higher levels of protection.

2. Get a pneumococcal vaccine.

Pneumococcal pneumonia is one of the most serious flu-related complications, and one that can lead to death. The pneumococcal vaccination protects against pneumonia, meningitis and some types of blood infections that can piggyback on serious flu cases.

3. People with early flu symptoms should quickly consult a medical practitioner.

Identifying flu symptoms quickly means that you are less likely to spread the virus, but it can be hard to know exactly when respiratory issues and general malaise are just a mild bug or whether they are indicative of flu. Everyone who is “feeling under the weather” should see a nurse or doctor.

An added benefit: Anti-viral medications like TamiFlu can be given within 48 hours of the onset of any symptoms. These medicines are much more likely to shorten the duration and severity of the illness, but they must be administered so soon after symptoms appear.

4. Always carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Always keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. Many places have dispensers that hang on the wall that will allow you to sterilize your hands whenever needed. Having a travel-sized bottle in your purse or on your keys is helpful as well so you can use it while out in public.

5. Practice social distancing.

Because the flu virus is spread through the air, keeping people further apart can help prevent its spread. When you’re in public, try not to get too close to others who appear to be under the weather.

6. Clean frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant wipes.

Use a product that guarantees it will kill at least 99 percent of viruses, including flu viruses, and wipe down areas that are often touched. In addition to doorknobs, clean computer keyboards, board game pieces and counter spaces. Keep the wipes handy to clean frequently touched objects like cell phones and umbrella handles.

7. Always keep flu prevention practices in mind.

It’s important to remember good illness prevention practices, like coughing or sneezing into a tissue and then carefully disposing of the tissue, or coughing into the inner elbow. Also remember to wash hands with soap and warm water frequently.

8. Hang printed reminders to engage in healthy practices.

The CDC makes Cover Your Cough” printable fliers available that you can copy and hang up. If you’re a teacher, you can hang them up in your classroom and hallways. If you work at a senior living community, you can hang them near bathrooms and sinks to encourage hand washing. These educate readers about how flu is spread and are available in several languages.

With communication and best practices, you can minimize the impact of the flu on yourself and those around you. It all starts with getting properly vaccinated against the flu. Getting a flu shot is the first step toward preventing the spread of influenza in your home and community.

Want to learn more about how you can prevent the flu?