Winter is now in full effect, which means the flu is at its most infectious peak! While it may not seem like you’ll get the flu, or believe your immune system is strong enough to fight it off, it is still important to actively prevent the flu.

Influenza (the flu) season can start as early as September and last into the spring, which means that no one person is ever really out of the clear. Additionally, the flu strain changes each year and adapts so new vaccinations are required annually.

Most importantly, the flu is extremely contagious and can quickly spread as soon as it comes into contact with your community. Actively preventing is the only way to make sure you don’t get sick.

Recent CDC statistics found that between six and seven million people at the start of 2019 have been sick from the flu and that influenza contributed to nearly 80,000 hospitalizations.

So what are some best practices to help keep the flu at bay during peak flu season?

Get your flu shot ASAP

The flu shot is by far the most effective way to prevent the flu.

A flu shot, or flu vaccination, works by using a weakened strain of the latest flu virus to teach your immune system to fight the infection. The vaccine helps your body prevent the flu throughout flu season and helps your immune system for a full year.

However, there are many myths surrounding the flu shot and whether or not it is truly effective. Misinformation like the idea that a flu shot can help a person contract the flu is false. Public health experts, medical researchers, and primary care providers all agree that the flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu.

Hand-washing, hygiene, and sanitizer are a big help

Daily activities that help prevent the flu include routine hand-washing and maintaining good hygiene.

Make sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap to keep germs from spreading. It also helps to use personal hand sanitizer after you touch public surfaces like railings or doorknobs.

Limit your contact with others that show common symptoms of the flu such as coughing, sneezing, and fever.

Stay hydrated and well fed to keep your immune system up to par

During peak flu season, your body needs to be well fed and hydrated to keep your immune system active.

Your immune system requires plenty of fluids and sustenance in order to actively fight off aggressive viruses and bacteria. The flu is a persistent disease so make sure to eat at least three meals a day, drink water throughout the day, and get plenty of sleep.

In addition, foods high in Vitamin C are helpful in preventing the flu and reduce flu symptoms. Some over-the-counter medicines also contain vitamin C with explicit instructions on dosage and frequency of use.