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
A handy infographic about ways to help prevent the flu.
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
- All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
- 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
There is a range of flu vaccines available in Australia, some of which are provided by the National Immunisation Program. Most people have a vaccination that covers 4 strains of influenza.
Learn more about the flu vaccine on this FAQs page.
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).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: March 2019