How you can avoid getting the flu

Influenza (flu) is a highly contagious vaccine-preventable respiratory disease. Read on to find out how to protect yourself and your family from catching the flu.

How is the flu spread and how can I avoid spreading or getting it?

The flu virus spreads easily through families, workplaces, childcare centres and schools. People who have the flu may infect others from 24 hours before symptoms start until one week afterwards.

Here are three ways you can catch the flu:

  • When an infected person coughs or sneezes and you breathe it in;
  • Through direct contact with fluid when an infected person coughs or sneezes; and
  • By touching a contaminated surface with the flu virus on it, and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose before you wash your hands.

Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from catching the flu.

The following may also help prevent you from getting the flu or from spreading it if you unknowingly have it:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless you have washed your hands;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick (and stay away from people if you are sick);
  • Make good hygiene a habit:
    • Sneeze and cough into your elbow to reduce the risk of spreading flu.
    • Keep surfaces clean.
    • Wash your hands thoroughly and often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you can't wash your hands, use hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol. This applies especially if you have been in a public place, have coughed, sneezed, blown your nose or been to the toilet.
  • Avoid going out if you are sick.

Who should have a flu shot?

Getting an annual flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older as an important way to reduce the risk of flu and its complications.

Why should I get a flu shot each year?

The Department of Health recommends annual flu shots as the flu virus is constantly changing and the vaccine is updated to keep up with these changes.

What if I’m pregnant?

Pregnant women and their babies/infants are at increased risk of serious complications from the flu. If you are pregnant, it is important to ask your GP or pharmacist about how to best protect yourself and your developing baby. Vaccination during pregnancy is regarded as appropriate and can help to protect your baby for the first few months after birth.

As your baby will not be able to receive a flu shot before 6 months, all adults and children who are likely to come into contact with your family should consider flu-prevention measures to reduce the risk of an infection.

All pregnant women are eligible to receive a free annual flu vaccination under the National Immunisation Program.

How do I stop the flu early?

As flu is a viral infection, antibiotics won’t help. In some cases, patients may be prescribed antiviral medication by their GP. Antiviral treatments can shorten the duration of illness if used within the first two days of the start of symptoms.

For most healthy people, symptoms will decrease from the eighth day, although symptoms can last several weeks.

Pharmacists or GPs may recommend the use of over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen to help relieve aches and fever.

NOTE: Flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis. People in high-risk categories such as those with long-term medical conditions, diabetes, lung disease, chronic respiratory conditions, or aged 65 years or over, should always seek medical advice for the flu.

Can vitamin C help with flu?

There is insufficient evidence to suggest Vitamin C helps to treat or prevent flu.


If you do get the flu, stay home, rest, and stay hydrated. Your GP or pharmacist may recommend the use of over-the-counter medications to help reduce some of the symptoms. Your GP may also prescribe you antivirals, which may reduce the duration of your illness.

Although most people with the flu will recover without medical attention, seek medical advice if you are concerned. People in high-risk categories, or those experiencing signs like chest pain, should always see a doctor if they have the flu.

Vaccination is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of flu. Will you be ready for the flu season in 2023? Talk to your GP or pharmacist about flu vaccines and how you can protect yourself against the flu.

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