Although the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, you don't necessarily need it to protect yourself from getting the flu this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are certain good health habits that can help prevent the spread of flu.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Don't use your hand to cover a sneeze or cough. If you don't have a tissue, turn away from others and cough into the air. If you must use your hand to cover, wash your hands immediately.
Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs and will help keep you from spreading germs from one object to another. ¨ Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
Drink plenty of fluids to flush your system, wash out toxins and rehydrate yourself. A healthy adult should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
Get fresh air. Central heating dries out your nasal passages which can make you more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. Also, more germs are circulating in closed rooms this time of year.
Avoid smoking and smoky places. Smoking and second hand smoke dries out your nasal passages and decreases the effectiveness of the delicate hairs in mucous membranes that sweep out the germs.
Decrease alcohol consumption. Alcohol dehydrates the body and can affect the liver's efficiency in filtering your blood.
Exercise. Aerobic exercise helps the body's natural defenses by speeding blood circulation, increasing oxygen intake and making you sweat out toxins.
In addition to good health habits, the CDC recommends FluMist®, the nasal-spray flu vaccine, as an option for healthy individuals, ages five to 49.
Another preventative measure is antiviral medications. According to the CDC, when used for prevention, they are about 70 to 90 percent effective for preventing illness in healthy adults.
Three antiviral drugs – amantadine, rimantadine, and oseltamivir, are approved and commercially available for use in preventing flu. All of these medications are prescription drugs. Consult with a doctor for more information.