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Preventing Seasonal Flu Illness

Questions & Answers

What can I do to protect myself against the flu?

The single best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu, get vaccinated each season. To learn more, see Key Facts about Flu Vaccine.

What are other steps that can be taken to prevent flu illness?

Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu–like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.*
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

Also, antiviral medications, which can treat flu illness, may be used in certain circumstances to prevent the flu.

Can herbal, homeopathic or other folk remedies protect against the flu?

There is no scientific evidence that any herbal, homeopathic or other folk remedies have any benefit against influenza.

How long can influenza viruses live on hard surfaces (such as books or doorknobs)?

Studies have shown that human influenza viruses generally can survive on surfaces between 2 and 8 hours.

What kills influenza viruses?

Influenza viruses can be destroyed by heat (167-212°F [75-100°C]). In addition, several chemical germicides, including chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, detergents (soap), iodophors (iodine-based antiseptics) and alcohols are effective against influenza viruses if used in proper concentrations for a sufficient length of time. For example, alcohol-based hand rubs can be used in the absence of soap and water for hand washing.

Influenza viruses on the surface of objects also can be killed by ultraviolent C (UV-C) radiation (at a wavelength of 200–270 nm; e.g., 254 nm). UV-C may be provided by exposure to direct sunlight or light from a mobile UV-C device. To date, there are no published studies that demonstrate reduced transmission of influenza viruses by using UV-C devices in household settings.

*What if soap and water are not available and alcohol-based products are not allowed in my facility?

If soap and water are not available and alcohol-based products are not allowed, other hand sanitizers that do not contain alcohol may be useful.