Getting the flu can be much more debilitating than dealing with a runny nose.

By far, the best way to prevent getting sick is by getting a flu shot. It’s safe, effective, and free. “It’s important that you get a flu shot every year,” says Dr. Joel Kettner, a public health physician, “because the flu virus changes from year to year and a new vaccine is created every flu season.”

The flu shot, however, isn’t 100 percent effective — in fact, recent studies show that the flu vaccination only reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 to 60 percent among the general population. Doctors recommend that everyone doubly protect themselves and their families by creating a barrier against flu germs through good hygiene.

You can stop the spread

Germs lurk on the surfaces of everything we touch. Since the flu is highly contagious — especially in heavily populated environments like workplaces and schools — it can be easy to bring outside germs home.

The virus can survive on surfaces for 24 hours so, within the home and at work, disinfect personal and communal spaces that may have flu germs or bacteria from other sources. Doctors recommend you wipe down doorknobs, desks, faucets, and keyboards. Most commercial disinfectants can kill any remaining viruses the flu shot hasn’t taken care of.

For an additional layer of protection, be sure to avoid touching your face with your hands, and remember to cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm, not into your palm.

Another easy way to stop the spread of germs is washing your hands frequently. Any type of soap will do, because when it comes to hand washing, it’s about the amount of time spent and how thorough you are in scrubbing the virus from your skin. Carry an alcohol-based sanitizer for when you can’t get to a sink.

When your family is battling the flu, getting through the season can be challenging, but you can help ensure you and your family stay healthy if you use these two lines of defense.