Flu season is upon us. While all the coughing, sniffling and wheezing can be tough on your sinuses, it can also be harsh on your heart. But before you stock up on tissues or whip up a bowl of Mom’s chicken noodle soup, check out these tips for staying flu-free this season!

While the flu can leave most people sick for a few days, but it can be a much more serious ordeal if you have heart disease or have had a stroke. When you’re sick, your heart is under more stress because it has to work harder to pump blood through your lungs which is not ideal for people who already have heart problems. The flu can also cause complications, like bacterial pneumonia, or make chronic heart problems worse. So it’s best to avoid it if you can.

Check out the American Heart Association’s tips for staying well this flu season.

The best thing to do is to avoid people who are already sick. This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how easily we can forget this cardinal rule. Putting a little distance between yourself and the virus can drastically reduce your chances of catching it. I try to do little things to limit my exposure, like bringing my own water bottle to the gym instead of using the water fountain, or taking a book from home to read in a lounge or waiting room so I’m not tempted to pick up the magazines.

Wash your hands! Everyone knows this one, but washing your hands frequently and keeping them away from your eyes, nose and mouth is great for reducing your risk. This time of year, I am a zealous advocate of antibacterial hand sanitizer. I like to keep a tiny bottle in my purse, in my car, in my desk and anywhere else I can think to stash one. I’ve found that if it’s readily available, I’m much more likely to de-germ more often.

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to get your flu vaccine. Getting a shot is not very fun, but it’s much better than drowning in tissues and chicken noodle soup all winter!

If you think you’re getting sick, head to the doctor early. If it’s confirmed that your illness is the flu, your doctor can give you antiviral medicines, which can reduce the duration of your illness and get you back to feeling well faster.

How are you avoiding the flu this season? Leave us a comment with your tips! We’d love to hear from you!