What Can You Do to Prevent the Flu?

2/8/2016
By Megan J. DiGiorgio, MSN, RN, CIC
Clinical Specialist, GOJO Industries


We are in the middle of winter-germ season, and even though reports of influenza seem to be lower than last year at this time, it is important to remember the flu season typically peaks between December and February each year in the United States[1]. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the symptoms and preventive measures you can take to help reduce the spread of illness-causing germs.

First it is important to be aware of the symptoms. Flu can cause the following signs and symptoms[2]:

  • Fever and chills (not everyone will have a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

Healthy adults can spread flu to others 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.[3]


So how can you reduce your risk of becoming ill? Key measures you can take to prevent the spread of germs that can cause flu include:

  • Get your flu vaccine and if you are a healthcare worker, vaccinate your patients. This is the most important measure you can take. Remember, you can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine because it’s either made with inactivated virus, no virus at all, or weakened virus that cannot cause illness.[4,5]
  • Perform hand hygiene often. Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently.  
  • Cover your cough or sneeze. Cough or sneeze into your sleeve, but if you cough or sneeze on your hands or a tissue, perform hand hygiene immediately.[6]
  • Stay home if you are sick. Presenteeism (coming to work sick and potentially infectious) is harmful to co-workers[7]. Do no harm. Stay home.

For up-to-date information on flu, visit the CDC flu web page.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What You Should Know for the 2015-2016 Influenza Season. Retrieved December 29, 2015, from www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2015-2016.htm
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu: what to do if you get sick. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm. Updated September 12, 2013. Accessed January 23, 2014. 
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How flu spreads. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm. Updated September 12, 2013. Accessed January 23, 2014.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal flu shot: questions and answers. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm#catch-flu-from-shot. Updated September 26, 2013. Accessed January 23, 2014. 
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Misconceptions about seasonal flu and flu vaccines: questions and answers. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm. Updated November 20, 2013. Accessed January 23, 2014. 
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette in healthcare settings. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/resphygiene.htm. Updated February 27, 2012. Accessed January 23, 2014. 
7. Widera E, Chang A, Chen HL. Presenteeism: a public health hazard. J Gen Intern Med. 2010;25:1244-1247.