A helpful guide to reducing your risk of flu
Flu symptoms can put a damper on anyone’s day. The flu doesn’t have to be inevitable—learn how to protect yourself (and others) against the flu this, and every flu season.
Start with your flu shot
The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone 6 months or older, especially pregnant women, people with asthma, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or people over 65. To be protected throughout the entire flu season, it’s recommended to get it before the end of October — when flu season typically begins.
“There’s a variety of ways to protect yourself from the flu, but getting your flu shot still remains the best protection. Getting a flu shot is fast, easy, and effective,” says Dr. Richard Martin, a family medicine doctor at Geisinger Mount Pleasant in Scranton.
In addition to the flu vaccine, there are other ways you can protect yourself from the flu.
Avoid close contact
If someone around you like a family member or co-worker has the flu, keeping your distance can prevent you from getting it, too. However, when you’re going about daily tasks like grocery shopping or running errands, it can be difficult to stay away from others who might have the flu virus.
Wash your hands
Good hygiene is essential to preventing the flu. If you use public transportation, public restrooms or touch a lot of surfaces that might be germ-covered like the checkout counter at the grocery or drug store, be sure to wash your hands. You should also wash them after you shake hands with someone during flu season.
If you can’t wash your hands as frequently as you’d like, you can carry antibacterial hand sanitizer as a backup.
“Throughout the day, we touch more surfaces than we realize. We also touch our face and eyes, which exposes us to bacteria and viruses. Wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of germs,” Dr. Martin advises.
Use disinfecting wipes on surfaces
It becomes more important to clean surfaces that may carry the flu virus during the fall and winter months. Carry disinfecting wipes to clean desks, handrails, counters, door handles and any other things many people might touch every day. The flu virus can live on a surface for up to eight hours.
Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
It might be second nature to rub your eye, scratch your nose or touch your mouth. Take extra care not to do this during flu season — this is how germs spread faster. Be cognizant of the surfaces you touch and wash your hands before touching your face.
Take care of yourself
Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as getting about eight hours of sleep, will keep your immune system strong and help you stay flu free during the season. Exercising regularly can also boost your immune system, as well as help to lower your stress levels and give you energy. Just wipe down that treadmill or weights before and after you use them.
If you’ve taken preventive measures but you think you may be coming down with the flu, avoid getting near other people and be sure to cover your mouth when you cough. It’s also important to stay home from work if you have the flu.
“If you’re experiencing flu symptoms, stay home from work or school to rest. The flu is contagious. Avoid contact with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of the flu this season,” says Dr. Martin.
It’s easier than ever to get your flu shot
- Visit us on 1 of 3 Super Saturday flu vaccine days between 9 a.m. and noon. Simply walk into the locations listed here. No appointment is necessary.
- September 28
- October 26
- November 23
- Stop by your Geisinger doctor’s office any weekday beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3, during regular office hours. No appointment is necessary.
- Have kids age 9 or older? Stop by any Geisinger Careworks location 7 days a week, during regular business hours. No appointment is necessary.
- Adults can walk into select Geisinger CareSite Pharmacy locations any weekday, during regular hours and request a flu shot. No appointment is necessary.
- Directly schedule an appointment with your Geisinger provider through myGeisinger or by calling 800-275-6401 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. (say "flu shot" when prompted).
- No locations near you? Find a Geisinger Health Plan participating pharmacy.