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How to Prevent Colds and the Flu

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Updated September 17, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

It is not always possible to prevent colds and the flu, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

1. Wash Your Hands

The most important thing you can do to prevent most any illness is to wash your hands frequently. Washing hands reduces the risk of transmission of viruses and bacteria. Learn how important it is to wash your hands and how to do it properly.

A question that comes up frequently when it comes to washing your hands is what type of soap to use. Do those antibacterial soaps really protect you more than regular soap? Find out where the research stands on antibacterial soap.

2. Flu Vaccines

The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. Although not 100% effective, the flu shot provides very good protection against influenza and is the best option we have right now. A few groups of people should always get a flu shot. Complications from the flu just aren't worth the risk of not getting the vaccine.

If you aren't a fan of shots, there are many options available now. Learn more about your flu vaccine options and see which one is right for you and your family.

3. Staying Healthy Around Others

Whether you are at work or at home, being around sick people greatly increases your risk of getting sick. Even though these situations may not always be in your control, you can take a few steps to protect yourself. Find out how to live your life and stay germ free.

4. When You Can't Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands is always your best bet to prevent illness, but there is not always soap and water around. So, what is a germ-conscious person to do? Carrying hand sanitizer with you may be an option. See when hand sanitizer is effective and what the research shows about this hand washing alternative.

Sources:

Key Facts about Influenza and the Influenza Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 30 Aug 2006. Department of Health and Human Services. 31 May 2007.

Germs and Hygiene. Medline Plus 24 May 2007. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 31 May 2007.

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