The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough, and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu. There are also flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent flu.
The tips and resources below will help you learn about actions you can take to protect yourself and others from flu and help stop the spread of germs.
Avoid close contact
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. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
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. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and COVID-19, are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
Clean your hands
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives - Tips of hand washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- It's a SNAP Toolkit: Handwashing - Hand washing resources from the It's a SNAP program, aimed at preventing school absenteeism by promoting clean hands. From the School Network for Absenteeism Prevention, a collaborative project of the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cleaning Institute.
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.
Practice other good health habits
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, by physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Preventing flu at work and school
- Find out about plans your child's school, child care program, or college has if an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.
- Make sure your child's school, child care program, or college routinely cleans frequently touched objects and surfaces, and that they have a good supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes on site.
- Ask how sick students and staff are separated from others and who will care for them until they can go home.
Learn more about preventing the flu, common questions and answers, and poster materials for schools: Resources for Schools, Childcare Providers, and Parents.
Learn more about COVID-19 planning and guidance for promoting safe and healthy learning environments for schools and childcare programs.
- Find out about your employer's plans if an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.
- Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.
- Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.
- Train others on how to do your job so they can cover for you in case you or a family member gets sick and you have to stay home.
- If you begin to feel sick while at work, go home as soon as possible.
Learn more about how you can prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like flu at work: Flu Prevention at Work.
Learn more about preventing COVID-19 in businesses and workplaces.
Content last updated June 24, 2021