10 Low- and No-Cost Tips to Prevent the Flu

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The peak of the flu season could be upon us. Are you doing everything you can to protect yourself from the "regular" flu, as well as swine flu?

The flu season usually peaks in February and can last into May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. That means you could still contract the virus.

To avoid the flu, including the H1N1 strain making headlines:

1. Get vaccinated

As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Check out “Should You Get a Flu Vaccine?

2. Wash your hands

You need to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to avoid catching and spreading germs. For a refresher course on how to properly wash your hands, check out the CDC’s instructional video. It says up to 80 percent of all infections are transmitted via our hands. (Fast-forward to 0:30 to skip the cheesy video introduction.)

3. Carry hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes are good to use when you don’t have access to soap and water.

4. Eat a balanced diet

A healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your immune system strong, according to Harvard Medical School. Start with these five flu-fighting foods.

5. Exercise regularly

Not only will it help keep your immune system strong, research has shown that flu shots work better with exercise.

6. Stop touching your face

Flu germs often enter our bodies through the mucous membranes of our eyes, nose and mouth. If you must touch your face, wash your hands before you do to lessen the chance that your hands will transfer infectious germs to your face.

7. Be wary of shared objects and surfaces

Doorknobs, railings, handles, counter tops, keyboards and writing instruments could be covered with germs; wash your hands thoroughly after touching them. The flu virus can stay alive for up to 48 hours outside of the body, so anything that’s regularly handled by other people is an opportunity for you to catch germs. This is something that unfortunate passengers on some cruise ships have learned.

8. Avoid sick people

Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick or could be coming down with something. This includes shaking hands. If you must be near them, wash your hands afterward. (Hopefully you’re picking up on the importance of hand washing by now.)

9. Go easy on the alcohol

Heavy alcohol use suppresses the immune system, according to WebMD.

10. Quit smoking

It damages the cilia (tiny hairs) and mucus that line our airways and protect us against infection-causing bacteria and viruses.

Stacy Johnson

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