Influenza can rear its head any time of the year but is known to be a particularly bad thorn in one’s side during times of the year when the weather is cold. According to WebMD, anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the population will get the flu in an average year and it can take three to seven days for a regular case of the illness to go away, with some effects lingering for up to two weeks. No one wants to get the flu, which is marked by fever, aches and pains, congestion, fatigue, and other symptoms. As a result, people do all they can to help prevent the flu or at the very least shorten its duration. The best way to stave off the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the vaccine is carefully curated to treat against the flu strains that research suggests will be the most common each flu season. Getting vaccinated by the end of October is recommended. Steer clear of sick individuals and make a concerted effort to avoid germs and the spread of germs. Diligently washing hands and avoiding touching your nose, eyes and mouth can help you avoid and spread germs. In addition, repeatedly clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. You might want to consider prophylactic treatment with an antiviral medication. In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of oseltamivir phosphate, which is known by the brand name Tamiflu, as a flu preventative. However, many people only reach for the drug when symptoms already have set in. Instead, it can be especially helpful in preventing the flu when someone in the household has already contracted the illness. The results of several clinical studies show that Tamiflu, when taken once daily, is up to 92 percent effective in preventing influenza illness in adolescents, adults and the elderly. Drink plenty of liquids during flu season to keep the body well hydrated so the immune system can be in top form. Fruit juices, water, broth-based soups, and sports drinks can help keep the respiratory system from forming thick mucus that can become laden with bacteria. Should a fever set in, fluids help prevent dehydration. It also can be wise to take zinc supplements during cold and flu season. Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of the respiratory care department at Mount Sinai Medical Center and the author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds & Flu, says zinc may boost immunity, which can shorten the duration or severity of the flu. The flu can quickly escalate and cause serious symptoms. Prevention and early treatment are essential during cold and flu season.