Flu Prevention

Proper Hand Washing Is Something Everyone Can Do

With most of the country seeing large numbers of people battling the flu, the American Red Cross has steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the virus and urges people to get their flu shot now.

Information on what to do if someone has the flu is available as part of the free Red Cross First Aid mobile app available for iPhone and Android devices. Details about influenza and what people can do during the current outbreak are also available on this web site.

GET FLU VACCINE NOW Getting a flu vaccine is the best step people can take protect themselves from the virus. “Flu season doesn’t peak until late January or February and can last until May, so it is not too late to get a flu vaccine,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, Chief Medical Director for the Red Cross. “It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide full protection, so the sooner someone gets vaccinated, the sooner they will be fully protected.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. Those with chronic conditions like pulmonary and cardiovascular illness, residents of nursing homes and other facilities and those with many other medical conditions are especially urged to get a flu shot. Full details are available on the CDC web site. There have been some reports that the vaccine supply is running short in some areas.

WASH YOUR HANDS Washing hands properly is an important step to avoid getting the flu.For visibly soiled hands, first wash with soap and warm water. When using soap and water:

  • Wash with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, covering the entire hand including fingernails and under jewelry.
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly with a disposable towel.
  • Use the towel to turn off the faucet.

If using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

  • Rub thoroughly over the entire hand, including nail areas and between the fingers.
  • Continue to rub until the product dries.

SNEEZING AND COUGHING If someone has to cough or sneeze, they should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue and wash their hands afterwards. If they don’t have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their elbow or upper arm, not their hands.


  • Keep hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth to keep flu germs from entering the body.
  • Stay home if feeling sick. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. The flu virus is spread by respiratory droplets passed from one person to another. These droplets can pass among people in close contact.
  • Avoid sharing objects—such as utensils, cups, bottles and telephones. If someone must share, disinfect the objects before and after using them.
  • Keep living and work areas clean. Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.

You can find more information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected by visiting redcross.org/FluTips.


About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org .