The common cold and influenza, or the flu, have many of the same symptoms such as runny nose, coughing and sore throat, however, one remains quite harmless and the other is increasingly fatal.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, each year seasonal influenza kills more than 36,000 and hospitalizes 200,000 more Americans, which undoubtedly makes it a public health issue.

Due to the high volume of people who contract the virus each year, prevention remains a source of contention among healthcare professionals who advise getting a flu shot.

“Vaccination is the best protection against contracting the flu,” Josephine Briggs, director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health said.

For many people, flu vaccinations aren’t always at the top of the priority list due to general mistrust, myths and misinformation about benefits and or effects of the shot.

The experts say flu vaccinations are the best defense against the cold and flu this winter, but here are more ways to stay healthy this winter:

Wash Your Hands – The best way to optimize your health above all else is personal hygiene. According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and warm water.

Hydration – Staying hydrated with liquids especially water during flu season allows the cells in the body to work at its maximum function; since the majority of the body is made up of water it’s a no brainer.

Limit Exposure to Illnesses – Some people who are ill can’t be avoided like family members, however, bowling buddies, associates and co-workers can be most of the time. If someone has cold and or flu symptoms stay away from them until they recover.

Sleep – When the body sleeps it is resting but it is also recovering from the wear and tear of the day and revving up the defenses against potential illnesses. If you aren’t getting the minimum 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night you are highly vulnerable to infectious diseases.

Moderate Exercise – Walking, yoga, bike riding and household chores are all ways to keep the body moving during winter months when being sedentary becomes much easier. Your immune system depends on these kinds of activities to stay strong.

Quit Smoking – According to smokefree.gov, smokers are more likely to contract the flu than nonsmokers. Also, being near second-hand smoke increases your risk. Kick the habit for more reasons than one.

smokefree.gov, smokers are more likely to contract the flu than nonsmokers. Also, being near second-hand smoke increases your risk. Kick the habit for more reasons than one.

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