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If you haven’t been hit by the flu this season, you probably know someone who has. So what can you do to protect yourself? We set out to verify what works and what doesn’t.
WASH YOUR HANDSYou’ve heard this bit since you were a kid, but washing your hands is the No. 1 way for you to stop spreading germs.
GIVE THE SICK PERSON SPACEQuarantine is a strong word, but both our experts agree that it wouldn’t hurt to give the sick person in your family a little space, especially since the CDC says the flu can spread through breath too.
DISINFECT HARD SURFACESThe flu virus can live on hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, faucets and remote controls, for up to 24 hours. Use a disinfectant spray or wipe to kill germs.
“Most basic household cleaners will disinfect a surface from the flu,” says Dr. Patricia Hayes with Legacy Health.
The key here is to let the surface stay wet until it dries on its own. Avoid using a sponge. It’ll just transfer germs to other surfaces if it’s not disinfected properly.
“It would be best to use a disinfectant wipe,” says Dr. Irvin Sulapas with the Baylor College of Medicine.
DON’T SHARE TOWELSBecause the flu virus can live on various surfaces, don’t share hand or bath towels with a sick person. Try using paper towels and disposable cups instead and isolate the sick person’s toothbrush.
USE A LAUNDRY BASKETThe same idea holds for laundry. The virus doesn’t live as long on cloth, but you still don’t need to hug the sick person’s clothes, bedding or towels. Use a laundry basket and wash your hands afterward.
WHAT TO DO WITH TRASHAs waste baskets fill up with tissues, they can spread the flu too, so it’s best to line your trash can with a grocery bag. Empty it once a day, all the while being careful not to touch anything inside.
AIR OUT THE SICK ROOMHow about some fresh air? Go ahead and open up the windows and air out the sick room as often as possible, but maybe don’t go out.
“Fresh air being in an open space with a lot of people is another thing,” says Dr. Sulapas. “That could also be a source of another infections spread.”
GET A FLU SHOTThe most important thing, according to our experts, is to get yourself vaccinated.
“The flu shot is the best thing you can do each year to prevent yourself from getting the flu,” Dr. Hayes says.