How to Protect Yourself from the Flu This Winter

Oct 04, 2022
How to Protect Yourself from the Flu This Winter
Fall is officially here, and that means flu season is upon us. Fortunately, there are steps you can take now to protect yourself. Keep reading to learn our top tips on staying influenza-free this winter.

Fall has officially arrived, and along with the changing leaves and cooler temperatures comes the start of flu season

Since the common cold and COVID-19 viruses gear up at the same time as the flu, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself from viral influenza strains that negatively affect your immunity.

At Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania with 12 locations in Nuremberg, Edwardsville, Shickshinny, Wilkes-Barre, Monroe Township, Sullivan Trail Fall, Freeland, and Hazelton, Pennsylvania, we specialize in providing flu care — including the annual flu vaccine — so you can maintain your health this winter. 

Our experienced providers put their heads together and gathered our top tips on protecting yourself from the flu and other viruses. Keep reading to learn what you need to know to stay healthy this winter!

1. Get your flu shot every year

Since viruses change over time, new flu shots come out every year. It’s important to get the flu shot every flu season because different flu strains circulate each year. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year, unless you’re allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.

Since it takes about 2 weeks for your body to make the antibodies needed to protect you from the flu after getting the vaccine, it’s best to get your shot as early as possible. Anytime from September to early October is ideal. 

Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania offers flu vaccines in both injection and nasal spray form, making it even easier for the entire family — including injection-averse kids — to get immunized this flu season. 

2. Pay attention to hand hygiene

Keeping your hands clean is an important part of protecting yourself from the flu. This is because influenza viruses can live on surfaces you touch.

After you touch something with the flu virus on it then move your hands to your face, the virus enters your system through your nose, mouth, or eyes, possibly making you sick. 

To stay as healthy as possible, pay attention to hand hygiene by frequently washing them with hot, soapy water — especially before eating, after using the restroom, and whenever you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose. 

If you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Look for hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol for the best protection. 

You’ll also want to clean and disinfect high-touch objects and surfaces using household cleaning sprays or sanitizing wipes. 

3. Keep your mouth and nose covered

Upper respiratory viruses, like the flu, love it when people don’t cover their mouth or nose when they sneeze or cough. This is because the particles we expel during these bodily functions are the fastest way to spread the virus. 

Protect others and stop the flu in its tracks by covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze while you’re sick. Don’t use your hands, though. Instead, use a tissue or your elbow to cover up and stop germs from spreading. 

You can’t force other people to cover their mouths and noses, however. If you want to avoid getting the flu and while you’re in a crowded place, you can cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or mask to avoid breathing in the flu virus. 

4. Avoid close contact with others during flu season

You don’t need to lock yourself away, but avoiding close contact with those outside your household and keeping your distance in busy places helps prevent flu spread. 

For example, instead of shaking hands or kissing people outside your household, try an elbow or fist bump. Stay an arm’s length away if you can while waiting in line at a crowded grocery store or shopping center. 

You’ll also want to avoid as much contact as possible with high-touch surfaces like pay phones, door knobs and handles, and handrails.

What if I’m sick and I think I have the flu?

While most of the time the flu resolves with simple at-home care, it does sometimes require medical attention. This is especially true if you have certain pre-existing health conditions that put you at higher risk for complications.

The team at Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania diagnoses what’s making you sick using a flu test. 

Your provider creates a personalized treatment plan to help you recover quickly. If we catch the flu early, this may include antiviral medications that work to prevent complications and speed your recovery. 

To schedule your annual flu shot or to get medical help, book an appointment online or over the phone at your nearest Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania location. Our practice offers convenient transportation services for patients who need help getting to one of our offices, and sliding scale payments for patients without insurance.