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You’re more likely to get the flu during colder months, but by following these simple tips to fight germs, you can boost your odds for emerging from the season unscathed.

1. Keep your hands squeaky clean.

We say it time and time again, but just because we love you, we’ll remind you—wash those hands! The flu virus can live on surfaces like tables and keyboards for two to eight hours. Between grimy countertops, spotty doorknobs and sweaty machines at the gym, there is really no better defense against germs than washing your hands with antibacterial soap or disinfecting them with sanitizer. Both are equally effective, says Robert Truax, D.O., a family physician at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

2. Stay hydrated.

Our body is made up of mostly water, and when we’re dehydrated, it’s just an extra stress on our system. Dryness—like a scratchy throat—decreases your immunity barriers and opens the door to infection. Drinking plenty of water is crucial to staying healthy.

3. Remember that vitamins aren’t replacements.

Even a large vitamin C tablet can’t guarantee that you’re better protected against every nasty bug that floats around. It’s far better to eat a balanced diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables. You want your body to be in its maximum condition to fight off illness.

And don’t be fooled by products that claim to support a healthy immune system either. “Their choice of words just means it won’t make you unhealthy,” says Lamberts. “Can they say it builds a healthy immune system? No. They haven’t proven it.”

4. Stay active.

Don’t use cold weather, hectic holiday shopping or a stacked schedule of festive soirees as an excuse to skip your workout. Getting plenty of exercise actually reduces the stress hormone cortisol and improves your immune system.

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Alyssa Wells

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