In the northern hemisphere, a typical flu season lasts from October through May with peak activity between December and February. Most people who get the flu recover within a week, although symptoms such as exhaustion can linger.
The single best way to avoid the seasonal flu is to get a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend flu vaccines for everyone over ages 6 months.
It’s very important for people who are at higher risk for complications to get vaccinated as the CDC recommends — provided they don’t have contraindications. Young children, people ages 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions are are among the groups at higher risk. They should contact their doctor. To find flu vaccine clinics nearest you, a flu vaccine finder may help. Go to flu.gov and enter your information in the finder.
So what should you do to stop the spread of germs if you or someone in your home is already sick?
Flu germs spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing and by touching contaminated surfaces and objects. Here are some tips that may help you keep the illness at bay.
Stay home. To get over the flu and to prevent spreading it to others, stay home from work or school while you have flu symptoms. Symptoms may include body aches, fever, stuffy or runny nose, cough, headache, tiredness and sore throat. Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea occur, but this is seen more often in children. As a guideline, you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without use of fever-reducing medicine.
Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water. This is one of the most important steps you can take to help stop the spread of germs. When you are out, carry an alcohol-based hand rub that is at least 60 percent alcohol in case soap and water aren't available.
Cover your mouth and nose with a clean tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away as soon as you use it. If you don't have a tissue, cover your nose and mouth with your upper sleeve or the crook of your elbow, not your hands.
Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes. Germs spread this way.
Don't share eating utensils, drinking glasses or bottles with anyone.
Disinfect surfaces and objects that are commonly used, such as kitchen countertops, doors, sink handles and light switches. Harmful germs can live on surfaces for hours, so it's important you clean them often with a disinfectant.
Avoid close contact with friends and family members to reduce their risk of catching the flu from you.