How to protect yourself during a rough flu season

With the flu spreading misery across Georgia, leaving 15 people dead and more than 500 hospitalized, WebMD medical editor and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Hansa Bhargava says it's time to start protecting yourself.

If you haven't gotten a flu shot, Dr. Bhargava says, get one.

Flu experts say this flu season could be the roughest we've seen in a decade. But, there are some simple ways you can protect yourself.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu.

And, Bhargava says, get better about handwashing.

Wash your hands after you touch handles, after you handle your cellphone, after you handle your keyboard."

— Dr. Hansa Bhargava, WebMD Medical Editor and pediatrician

"So, wash your hands after you touch handles, after you handle your cellphone, after you handle your keyboard," she says.  "Go to the bathroom and wash your hands."

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water works best, but a hand sanitizer is a good backup. Spray down any shared spaces with a disinfectant. Try to avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose, because the flu can get in through your mucus membranes. Lastly, steer clear of anyone who appears to be sick.

Flu experts say this flu season could be the roughest we've seen in a decade. But there are some simple ways to protect yourself. (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta)

Dr. Bhargava says she is getting asked about natural flu remedies.

"Some interesting things I've used myself, and I recommend to my patients, are the herbal remedies that are out there," she says. "They are not proven, but as long as they don't do harm, it's not a bad idea to try them."

She recommends raw ginger tea.

"Add some raw turmeric to it," she says. "Even even if that has no medicinal qualities, which by the way, the research is showing it does have anti-inflammatory properties, you'll still get hydration.

The flu, unlike a cold, tends to hit you hard and fast.

Most people are sick about a week, but some are coughing and tired for two or three weeks.

Flu experts say this flu season could be the roughest we've seen in a decade. But, there are some simple ways you can protect yourself.

If you've been exposed to the flu, or are caring for someone who is sick, ask your doctor about antiviral medication that could prevent you from getting sick. 

And if you do catch the flu, despite all your precautions? Stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and hang in there.

"If things are getting worse, or you're worried, always check in with your doctor," Dr. Bhargava says. "You might need an antibiotic, or you might need to be (seen) in the doctor’s office."