Washing your hands vigorously is a simple way to reduce your risk for the flu.

5 ways to squash a late-season flu bug

By: Abby Hayes, February 26, 2016

With each passing day, spring's much-anticipated arrival comes closer. While the days are getting progressively longer, the odds of coming down with the harsh health effects of the cold season aren't getting any shorter.

Not a year goes by in which influenza doesn't rear its ugly head. Compared to years past, flu season has been relatively moderate, evidenced by fewer Americans seeking treatment from their primary care physician, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traditionally, illness check-ups are covered by health insurance. More Americans have health coverage

"Flu season can stretch from October to as late as May."

today thanks to the Affordable Care Act and free health insurance quotes.

However, flu season is still very much in season, lasting into March, April and even May. These five tips can help you avoid coming down with a late-season flu bug:

Get a flu shot
Each year, the flu season's vaccine is distributed to health care facilities, traditionally in October. Doctors highly recommend getting a shot soon after the vaccine is released, but even if you haven't yet, it's still not too late. As noted by the CDC, the flu season is often as long as seven months, so there's still plenty of time for influenza to spread. Shots are recommended for everyone, including children who are as young as 6 months old.

Wash your hands regularly
It sounds commonsensical, but lots of people fail to wash their hands, particularly after using the restroom. Bathrooms are some of the more germ-infested locations, both in public and in private settings like at home. Also, because germs tend to remain on surfaces for longer periods of time when it's cold, washing your hands is extra important during the winter

Among those who do wash their hands, many don't do it effectively. Health experts say you should always wash your hands vigorously after using the porcelain facilities, making sure to use both soap and water. In terms of how long you should scrub, between 10 and 20 seconds is the ideal. That translates to quickly humming "Happy Birthday" to yourself twice.

Avoid touching mouth, nose

"People, on average, touch their face more than three times per hour."

The quickest way to coming down with a cold or flu is through contact, and people do a lot of that in the typical 24-hour period. According to research published in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, people touch their face an average of 3.3 times per hour. That's plenty of opportunity to come down with something.

In public settings, avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes, health experts advise, as this is the way that bad germs lead to illness. Also, instead of using your hands when you feel a sneeze coming on, use your sleeve.

Stay home
Willpower and stick-to-itiveness are laudable traits. However, when you go into work regardless of your well-being, it opens the door for others being affected. Be mindful of your colleagues and take a sick day when you're feeling under the weather. The extra rest may prevent the flu from fully manifesting itself.

Go to your doctor
Many people don't take full advantage of their health insurance coverage after finding a plan via online health insurance quotes. This may be because cold symptoms often resemble the flu. If your symptoms last for more than a week, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, which can make flu symptoms less intense.

Typical signs of flu include chills, fever, aches, lethargy, cough, sore throat and a runny nose. Sinus congestion is also common with influenza.