We don’t always recognize the flu when it hits, but when it does, we know we’re in for a rough couple of weeks. In the United States, the flu season settles in through the fall and winter, starting as early as October and hitting its peak season in December through March, according to the CDC.

From the sniffles to body aches to a sore throat, the flu affects everyone differently. It’s important to take the time to read up on the many symptoms and treatments to the flu now to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy for the rest of the year.

Take a look at the tips we’ve provided below to learn a few ways to avoid the flu this year.

Get your flu shot early:
No one likes getting shots, but they can make a serious difference to the health of your family and the citizens in your community. Flu shots are a quick, preventative option that everyone, especially seniors and children, should consider. The CDC strongly recommends anyone 6 months or older, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu, get vaccinated each season.

For northern Virginia community members, you and your family can walk in or make an appointment at an Inova Urgent Care location to get your flu shot, which can help protect you from the most common types of the flu. Check your health plan to see if it is free for you and your family. Getting your flu shot by October can help you stay flu free throughout the fall and winter.

Focus on your health before and during the flu:
Taking the time to stay hydrated and healthy all year round will help boost your immune system for flu season. Focus on eating well, exercising and drinking plenty of water. If you do come down with the flu, remember the importance of staying hydrated as dehydration can create further complications for your recovery.

Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry:
It should go without saying, but remember during flu season to be particularly diligent about washing your hands. By washing your hands after doing things like, touching the Metro wall or your child climbing on the playground, you can avoid getting sick and the spread of germs. According to the CDC, “Handwashing is like a ‘do-it-yourself’ vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry.”

If the flu strikes know your options:
No one wants to get the flu, but if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should stay home to prevent sharing your illness with friends and colleagues. It may be hard to stay home and take a sick day, but your immune system and your colleagues will thank you. Taking a few days to build your strength and health back up, will help everyone in the long run. In addition, if you’re feeling under the weather, your nearest urgent care may be able to help. Click here to find your nearest urgent care center.

Between kids back to school and holiday travels on the horizon it’s important to pay extra attention to your health during this time of year. Taking preventative steps to stay healthy now can help you prepare for the upcoming flu season.

Start preparing for flu season now by getting your flu shot. Stop by an Inova Urgent Care location today!

About Innovation Health

Innovation Health provides health benefit plans to more than 200,000 members. The product of a unique Aetna and Inova Health System  partnership, Innovation Health began offering health benefit plans in October of 2013 as a new way to deliver and finance more affordable, quality health care for employers and individuals in Northern Virginia. Through our integrated care model, Innovation Health combines a premier health plan, health system, and physicians for improved health outcomes and cost savings.

Innovation Health plans are available to individuals and businesses of all sizes in Arlington County, Clarke County, Fairfax County, Frederick County, Loudon County, Page County, Prince William County, Shenandoah County, Spotsylvania County and Stafford County. Individuals residing in these counties can purchase health plans directly from Innovation Health at innovation-health.com or through the Virginia Exchange website for the 2017 open enrollment. For more information on Innovation Health, our plans and how we can help you, visit our website.