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Protecting yourself against infections

Infections are caused by germs entering the body. Germs can be passed from person to person, or by touching unclean surfaces. Infections are usually easy to treat, but sometimes they can cause serious problems.

Vaccinations

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Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. They teach your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from diseases. Once your immune system knows how to fight a disease, it can often protect you for many years.

The NHS offers a range of vaccinations at different stages of your life to keep you safe. Find out more about NHS vaccinations and when to have them.

Staying safe at home

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It's not possible (or a good idea) to get rid of all germs in your home, but there are some that we need to protect ourselves against. To keep you and your family safe, focus your cleaning efforts on germ hotspots like chopping boards, cleaning cloths, and sponges. Washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water can also help avoid spreading germs inside the home.

Flu

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Flu is a common infection that can easily spread to other people through coughs and sneezes. The symptoms of flu are similar to a very bad cold. They include a high temperature, an aching body, tiredness, and a headache. Flu can be very unpleasant, but you'll usually start to feel better within about a week.

You can help stop yourself catching flu or spreading it to others with good hygiene:

  • washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water
  • regularly cleaning surfaces like keyboards and door handles
  • using tissues when you cough or sneeze
  • putting used tissues in the bin

Some people are offered a free annual flu vaccine. This includes adults who:

  • are 50 and over
  • have certain health conditions
  • are pregnant

Norovirus

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Norovirus, also called the 'winter vomiting bug', is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be very unpleasant, but usually goes away in about 2 days. Find out how to treat diarrhoea and vomiting in children and adults.

It's not always possible to avoid getting norovirus, but you can help stop the virus spreading by washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water, and disinfecting surfaces.

You will usually start to feel better in 2 to 3 days. Stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days. This is when you're most infectious.