The worst season of the year is right around the corner. Flu season starts in October, and as a healthcare professional, you’re especially vulnerable to this highly contagious disease.

From Oct. 1, 2018, to May 4, 2019, there were approximately 37.4 million to 42.9 million flu illnesses in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 17.3 million to 20.1 million people sought medical care for the flu and 531,000 to 647,000 were hospitalized — and you were likely in direct contact with many of them.

While there’s no absolute way to avoid getting the flu, there are plenty of preventative measures you can take to decrease your chances of coming down with it. Here are three tips from the CDC that can help you stay healthy this flu season while providing optimal care to patients who need your help.

Get a Flu Shot

As a healthcare professional, you know there are many different flu viruses. However, a flu vaccine is formulated to protect against the strains research suggests will be the most prevalent, according to the CDC. It’s also wise to have everyone in your household — ages six months and up — get a flu shot, to boost their immunity to the disease.

Take Preventative Measures

As a healthcare professional, being in close contact with sick people is part of your job. However, there’s plenty of precautionary steps you can take to help decrease your chances of coming down with the flu — beyond just getting a flu shot.

Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. If that’s not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Keep bottles of this in your car, workstation, patient rooms, and anywhere else you spend a considerable amount of time. Carefully and quickly contaminate all surfaces that may have come in contact with flu germs. Additionally, avoid spreading germs by making a habit of not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Treat the Flu With Antiviral Drugs

Despite your best efforts, you might still come down with the flu. If this happens, see a doctor quickly for an antiviral prescription. This type of drugs can treat your illness, but they’re only available with a prescription. When used as directed by your doctor, antiviral drugs can decrease the severity of flu symptoms and help you get back on your feet faster.

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