You don't want to spend this winter battling a runny nose, a nagging cough, or a fever. But colds and flu come with the season, right?

They don't have to. Try this advice:

Get a flu shot

The best time to get the flu vaccine is in October or November, but getting the vaccine later is better than not getting it. The young, elderly, and chronically ill are most at risk for complications from seasonal flu. An annual flu shot is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older. Two things to remember: Flu shots don't cause the flu, and getting a flu shot won't protect you against the common cold.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands often. The viruses that cause colds and seasonal flu are spread by droplets, usually when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The virus enters your body airborne through your nose or mouth, or from your hands after you have touched an object contaminated with the virus. For instance, if you share a phone or a computer keyboard, or touch public door handles, and put your hands near your face, the virus could enter your mouth or nose. Washing your hands for at least 10 seconds using soap and water is best for cleaning cold viruses off your hands, according to a 2005 University of North Carolina study. If you don't have access to soap and water, consider carrying an alcohol-based hand cleaner with you.

Use tissues, then toss them

Don't stuff them back in your pocket. Throw them away.

Avoid contact

Avoid close contact with people who are sick, the CDC advises. Stay home if you are sick to prevent spreading your illness. When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.

Practice good health habits

The CDC recommends that you follow general recommendations to stay healthy: Get plenty of sleep; be physically active; manage your stress; drink plenty of fluids; and eat nutritious food.

Medical Reviewer: [Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN, Lambert, J.G. M.D., Lee Jenkins ] Last Annual Review Date: 2010-08-23T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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If you have the flu, you are contagious one day before symptoms appear and up to five days after.