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7 Cold and flu prevention steps you aren’t taking (but should)

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

Winter is coming, and it's time you took steps to prevent colds and flu from getting you down

Cold and flu season is almost upon us, but that often doesn't register in our busy minds. However, like it or not, those temperatures keep dropping, and you'll pay the price if you don't take some precautions.

People often think, "I won't get sick, because I have a healthy immune system," but that alone won't prevent viruses from getting in, especially if you spend time around a lot of people. You have to make a concerted effort to keep germs at bay.

That doesn't mean you have to do anything major, like wear a face mask every time you take public transportation. In fact, consciously taking little preventative steps every day is the best defense against nasty cold and flu bugs. Here's a list of seven things you should be doing to ward off those bugs this winter.

More: Tips to keep your kids safe and healthy during flu season (VIDEO)

1. Get a flu vaccine

Getting vaccinated against the flu should be No. 1 on your to-do list this fall. The CDC says anyone over the age of 6 months should get one, because the flu is so contagious, and potentially deadly to immune-compromised people. You don't even have to schedule an appointment with your general practitioner since most drugstores offer them now. It might be a little annoying to set aside the time to do it, but think of it this way: it's a couple hours in your day versus a potential few days off work with a fever.

2. Wash those hands

We hope you're already washing your hands, but you should probably be doing more than you already are. Washing your hands after touching anything that other people have touched is one of the best ways to stop the spread of cold and flu viruses. According to WebMD, the act of rubbing your hands with plain soap for 20 seconds under the faucet is enough to kill germs. And it may seem a bit Howard Hughes-ish, but to be extra careful, use a paper towel to turn off the water and another to dry your hands.

3. Don't touch your face

This sounds like something a mom might yell at her kids, but it's actually quite sound advice. We often unconsciously touch our eyes, mouths and noses with our hands, but it's a surefire way to spread germs.

4. Practice "social distancing"

Health.com says you should keep away from people displaying cold and flu symptoms, and yes, this includes friends and significant others, as tough as that might be. The cooties are real, people.

5. Exercise colds away

Need some exercise motivation? The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that says exercising regularly can reduce your chances of getting a cold by half. That's a pretty great reason to jump back on that treadmill.

More: Eat right to sail through cold and flu season unscathed

6. Sleep, sleep, sleep

This one may be particularly hard to pull off, especially if you have a stressful job or kids, but getting your recommended eight to 10 hours a night is one of the best ways to stave off the flu. According to Healthline, the immune system process of fighting invading viruses is especially active at night, so the better you sleep, the better your immune defenders work.

7. Eat those colorful fruits and veggies

One of the most natural ways to keep colds and flu at bay is by eating antioxidant-rich foods. According to WebMD, those are fruits and vegetables that contain phytochemicals, and are thus jam-packed with vitamins and minerals. They're often darker green, red and yellow in color. Some examples are spinach, pomegranate and yellow peppers.

This post was brought to you by Clorox. Use their new online tool, Cold and Flu Pulse, to see if cold and flu conversations are going viral so you can take steps to help prevent it in the real world.

More: Cold and flu season by the numbers

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