There’s no mistaking it when flu symptoms come your way: chills, a sore throat, a bad headache, and a persistent desire to stay in bed. It’s tempting to quarantine your family and scrub your house top to bottom to keep the germs from spreading to healthy bodies. But will that even help?

Flu is always an unwelcome guest, but luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to help keep those flu germs under control so that the whole family isn’t laid low. Here’s how:

  1. Get the flu vaccine. The most reliable way to help keep flu from spreading is to get a yearly vaccination. Plus, when more people get the flu vaccine, there’s less flu virus around to make its way through the community. Certain groups – such as pregnant women, people over 65 or with underlying health conditions – can get the vaccine for free on the NHS.
  2. Wash those paws. Perhaps you’ve heard it before, but it’s true, handwashing really does help stop bacteria and viruses from getting around. It’s a great habit to encourage in young kids and toddlers as well, letting them know that handwashing can help keep them from getting sick. Scrub with soap for 20 seconds - about how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday,” which makes the time fly.
  3. Disinfect strategically. Plain soap or an all-purpose cleanser like Seventh Generation’s All Purpose Spray is great for simple, everyday cleaning. When someone in your family is ill, it’s also good to use a disinfectant that kills household germs. That doesn’t mean you have to disinfect every nook and cranny in the house, though. Focus on germ hot-spots, such as toilet handles, faucets, doorknobs, bathroom surfaces, phones, computer keyboards, remote controls, tables and countertops.
  4. Keep a healthy distance. If you’re a parent, it’s simply not realistic to avoid all contact, but you can practice keeping a healthy distance. If you have a sick child, see if the other kids will play in their own rooms for a couple days. If you’re the sick one, try to avoid contact with anyone who’s healthy. That may mean letting some of those household chores go, but don’t worry - they’ll be waiting for you when you feel better.
  5. Sometimes, NOT sharing is caring. In a household, it’s normal to share everything from towels to blankets to sweatshirts. But when someone in the house is sick, encourage everyone to use only their own glasses, pillows, blankets, and utensils until the coast is clear.
  6. Discard your tissues. It’s always a good idea to cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue to help contain germs. But germs can linger on those used tissues for hours. So, throw them straight into the trash rather than letting them hang out on the couch or in your bed.

It’s hard to completely avoid getting flu or other illnesses. But these healthy, easy strategies can help keep you and your family healthy.