Boost immunity and kick germs to the curb with our guide to staying sniffle-free this season.\

by Aviva Patz

It’s that time again

Everywhere you go, people are sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. Think you’re next to get sick? Not necessarily. “There are no guarantees, but you can seriously lower your odds of illness by taking simple precautions to avoid germs and keep your immune system humming,” says Sandra Fryhofer, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.

Use this checklist to stay healthy through cold-and-flu season and beyond.

Say yes to the flu shot

The big news this year is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that everyone 6 months and older get the influenza vaccine before, only those at highest risk of flu complications were urged to get it. “There’s a greater realization that we all interact with each other, so the best way to reduce the spread of flu is to vaccinate everyone,” says Susan Rehm, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

When to get your flu shot

The ideal time to get vaccinated is before the onset of flu season (which is usually sometime in November or December), but it’s never too late. You can opt for an injection or (if you’re healthy and not pregnant) the FluMist nasal spray. Get a new flu shot every year because you lose immunity over time and because the viruses targeted by the vaccine usually change from year to year. This year’s formulation will also protect against H1N1 (a.k.a. swine flu), so there’s no need for a separate shot.

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