The Centers for Disease Control recommends a three-step approach to fighting the flu: vaccination, everyday preventive actions and the correct use of antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them.
1. A flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
- While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research indicates will be most common.
- Everyone six months of age and older should get vaccinated each year.
- Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and those who live with or care for high-risk people.
- Children younger than six months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for or live with them should be vaccinated to protect these babies.
2. Take everyday actions to help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading flu to others.
3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
- If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. These drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.
- Antiviral drugs work best when started in the first two days of symptoms to treat people who are very sick (such as those who are hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu symptoms and who are at increased risk of severe flu illness.