Good hygiene is one of the most important ways to help prevent colds and flu (influenza).
Other ways to help prevent flu can include:
- annual flu vaccination
- antiviral medicines, although these are only recommended for preventing flu if you have been exposed to the flu in the previous 48 hours.
Good hygiene includes:
- washing your hands regularly and properly with soap and water, particularly after touching your nose or mouth, and before handling food
- sneezing and coughing into tissues then throwing them away immediately and washing your hands
- cleaning surfaces such as your keyboard, telephone and door handles regularly to get rid of germs
- not sharing cups, plates and cutlery
- where you can, avoid sharing towels with other people and throw disposable tissues and paper towels in the bin immediately after using them.
What should I know about the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is available for anyone from 6 months of age. The best time to get the flu shot is early autumn to allow time for your immunity to be strengthened before the flu season (June to September) starts. It is important to have the vaccine each year to continue to be protected because your immunity decreases over time and the flu strains change over time as well.
The flu vaccine is free for the following people:
- anyone aged 65 years and over
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months to less than 5 years, and from 15 years of age
- pregnant women
- anyone over 6 months of age with medical conditions such as severe asthma, lung disease or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes that can lead to complications from influenza.
For more information on the flu vaccine, go to the Immunise Australia website or call the Program Information Line on 1800 671 811.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your cold or flu, why not use healthdirect's online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it's self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: September 2016