1. Get the latest vaccine
Flu viruses change slightly every year, so no two seasons are exactly alike. And "with pandemics, viruses grow up to be seasonal," says Allison McGeer, director of infection control at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. "H1N1 was born last year and will be a teenager this year, so the seasonal shots will protect you from it."
Getting vaccinated is your single best defense against the flu, adds Danielle Grondin from the Public Health Agency of Canada. "We're very fortunate in this country to have access to flu vaccines," which can reduce your risk of illness substantially, she says.
If needles make you nervous, you'll be happy to hear that Health Canada recently approved FluMist, a nasal spray that squirts the vaccine up your nose. There's also a new, tiny needle on the market that injects the vaccine under the surface of your skin, instead of going deeper into your muscle. (Just know that if you want the nasal spray or the micro-needle, you'll probably have to get it from your doctor.) "Vaccines educate your immune system so it can recognize the flu virus when it comes along," says Glen Armstrong, head of the Department of Microbiology and infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary. "If you're not immunized, the flu virus will start to make you sick before your immune system says, 'Oh geez, there's something wrong here.' "
When's the best time to get vaccinated? Ideally before flu season arrives in November or December. Vaccines usually become available in the fall and once you've had your shot it takes two weeks for your immune system to kick in and start protecting you from the virus.