Protect yourself and others from getting sick

Learn ways to avoid getting sick and stop the spread of germs. Follow these tips, especially during cold, flu, and respiratory illness season.

Two physicians pointing to the phrase "stop the spread"

Table of Contents

Get vaccinated

Adhesive bandage

Get vaccinated against flu, COVID-19, and RSV (if eligible) to help prevent illness and severe disease. Stay up to date with recommended doses for the best protection.


Find a vaccine provider near you:

Visit vaccine information for the general public to learn about all vaccine recommendations for adults and youth and to get answers to common questions.

Wash your hands

Hand wash icon

Keeping your hands clean is the best way to get rid of germs and stop the spread of germs to others. You can get germs on your hands by simply touching a doorknob, pressing an elevator button, grabbing a pole on public transit, or shaking hands. Once these germs are on your hands, touching your mouth or nose to eat, sneeze, or cough or touching your eyes can make you sick.


Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

Mask up if you need to

Face mask

Wearing a mask provides protection against the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, especially when indoors or in crowded spaces.


Consider wearing a mask to protect yourself if:

  • You have a weakened immune system
  • You are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition
  • You are caring for someone who is sick

Consider wearing a mask to protect the people around you if:

  • Someone in your household has a weakened immune system or is at increased risk for severe disease
  • You are sick with any respiratory illness  

Get tested

Nose swab test

Learn to recognize signs and symptoms of respiratory illnesses like flu, COVID-19, and RSV. If you have those symptoms, get tested.


Find a test near you:

  • Testing for flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses is widely available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, or health clinics in your community
  • You can also find information about free and low-cost COVID testing, including by mail from the federal government
  • At-home tests for COVID-19 are available to purchase in store or online; check with your insurance carrier to find out if reimbursement is available
    • If your first COVID-19 test is negative, check with your healthcare provider to see if they want to test you for something else. This is especially important if you have health conditions that may put you at higher risk of severe infections. If you don’t get an alternative diagnosis and you still have symptoms, be sure to test for COVID-19 again after a day or two.
    • If you still have at-home test kits, you can check if their expiration date has been extended through FDA

Get treatment

Medical shield

If you test positive for a virus, talk to your doctor right away about treatment options that are available for people who have mild to moderate symptoms.

Stay at home

Home icon

Stay home when you have symptoms of any respiratory illness. Staying home helps prevent the spread of germs.

You can download and share the Protect yourself and others from getting sick flyer in multiple languages.

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