You can tell when cold and flu season hits. Coughing, sore throats, sneezing, sniffling…all of these add up to a pretty miserable experience. There’s nothing you can do to cure the cold or flu once it strikes. 

Here are steps you can take toward preventing them from affecting your health:

Get a flu shot

You can obtain one at your doctor’s office or a local pharmacy. Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself from flu.

Wash your hands

Cold and flu germs can live for hours—and are easily spread by direct contact. That’s why it’s so important to wash your hands often with hot, soapy water or use an alcohol–based hand sanitizer.

Drink plenty of fluids

Water flushes out your system, helping rid your body of toxins while rehydrating you. During cold and flu season, it’s smart to increase your fluid intake.

Don’t touch your face with your hands

Think of your hands as germ collectors. When you touch your face, viruses can enter your body through your eyes, nose, or mouth. Most children catch and pass on colds by touching the face.

Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands

Once again, the hands are the primary culprits in passing on cold and flu viruses. If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, grab a tissue then throw it away immediately, or cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.

Don’t smoke

If you’re a smoker, here’s a great reason to quit. Heavy smokers have been found to experience more severe and more frequent colds. Even being around someone who smokes can weaken your immune system as smoke dries out your nasal passages.

Get regular exercise

In addition to reducing stress, exercise speeds up the heart, makes you breathe faster, and causes you to sweat—all of which help increase your body’s natural virus–killing cells.