6 Ways to Get the Flu

Every year cold and flu season rolls around and people try to take as many precautions as they can to avoid getting the flu.

The best thing you can do to prevent yourself from being infected with the flu virus is to get your flu shot on time. The vaccine works by stimulating your body to create antibodies that will fight the influenza virus. If you are actually exposed to the influenza virus, your body will recognize it and be able to fight it off without making you sick.

Occasionally, you might still experience flu-like symptoms even if you have had the vaccine because your body isn't able to create enough antibodies to fight off the infection completely, especially if you received the vaccine too late. However, it's key to understand that the flu shot will not make you get the flu virus itself.

You can also lower your chances by avoiding close contact with sick people and being cognizant of other factors that could put you at risk of serious complications. Read on to learn more.

Common Causes

The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the nose, lungs, and throat. It spreads when an infected company coughs, sneezes or talks in the presence of other people. Once droplets of the virus meet the air and come into contact with other people via their mouths or notice, they are highly susceptible to the virus. It's also possible to get the virus after touching a surface or object that an infected person came into contact with and then touching your own face.

It's also possible to spread the flu before you are even sick and experiencing symptoms, from one day before you're sick and five to seven days after receiving a diagnosis. Young children and people with compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of infecting others for longer periods of time.

Additionally, flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to three hours. Germs are everywhere and our hands touch so many things in our environments that there are bound to be some viruses there at some point. So if someone sneezes or coughs and those droplets that contain the influenza virus land on a door handle, keyboard, or other object that you touch later on, you can easily get sick.

If you don't wash your hands, you are much more likely to get some of those germs into your body and get sick. As such, it's key to know how to wash your hands properly and when to use hand sanitizer. Since hand sanitizer kills the germs on your hands, using it will cut down on your chances of getting sick.

Genetic and Other Risk Factors

Genetics do not play a role in anyone's risk of getting the flu—anyone is at risk of becoming infected. However, there are certain groups that are at higher risk of experiencing flu-related complications. These include:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after the end of pregnancy
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's important to note that while all children younger than five years old are considered to be at high risk for serious flu complications, the highest risk is for those younger than two years old, as the highest hospitalization and death rates are among infants younger than six months old.

Health and Age Factors Known to Increase Risk of Serious Flu-Related Complications

  • Asthma
  • Neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
  • Blood disorders
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders
  • People who are obese with a body mass index of 40 or higher
  • People younger than 19 years old on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.
  • People with a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS and some cancers) or medications (such as cancer treatments, chronic corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system)

Lifestyle Risk Factors

While certain lifestyle factors like eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly can help you to stay healthy in general, they can't prevent you from getting the flu.

People who work in environments where they come into contact with sick people are also more likely to become infected. Encourage your coworkers to stay home when they are sick, and if you're an employer, don't make taking sick days difficult when your employees are truly ill.

You may be able to avoid sick friends and relatives who don't live with you. But if someone in your own household becomes sick with the flu, you will need to be vigilant with handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and not sharing drinking cups and utensils. Close contact like shaking hands and hugging or kissing will allow the germs to spread even more easily.

Finally, while there are no guarantees, it still can't hurt to load up on foods that may help prevent colds and the flu, as well as foods that boost your immune system.

A Word From Verywell

There's no going around it: the best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu is by getting your flu shot every year. By additionally being aware of increased risk factors and taking steps to avoid spreading germs and coming into contact with sick people, you can further protect yourself from becoming infected this year.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Lung Association. Lung health & diseases. Flu symptoms, causes, and risk factors. June 20, 2019.

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