Remember last year when you had the flu, and you lay in bed on that day you took off work, ate chicken soup and promised yourself you will take some extra precautions so you wouldn't get the flu again (or at least do your best to avoid it). Well here are a few tips that can put you on the right track, after all nasal congestion, puffy eyes and phlegm don't sound to appealing at any time.

But first, what causes the flu in the first place?

The flu is a contagious virus that has different strains that emerge each year. It is a virus that can cause death in some cases (anyone remember swine flu, or bird flu?) so it is not to be taken lightly. Symptoms include a sore throat, high fever, headaches, cough, muscle pain and lethargy and usually appear one to four days after contracting the virus.

So how can I avoid getting the flu?

Get a flu shot – these are altered yearly to manage the new flu strains that have been found. Although not a complete fix all it will keep you away from some flu strains. It is safe for almost everybody and can be administered by injection or a nasal spray. See your doctor, and get your flu vaccine today.

Stay clean – the flu is contracted by either breathing in droplets of coughs and sneezes from those already infected, but these can also infect surfaces, so make sure that during flu season you regularly clean your hands, especially before you eat and even more so if you take public transport or have contact with large groups of people.

Eat a healthy diet – eating lots of fruit and vegetables supports your immune system. Studies have shown that reduced levels of vitamin E lead to an increase susceptibility of getting the flu. Don't just eat right in flu season though, you should be eating lots of fruit and vegetables all year round, this will put you into the best shape when flu season rolls around.

Avoid people with the flu – this might seem simple, but because the flu is a contagious virus, if you are around someone that has the flu, your risk of contracting it increase. If you see someone that is displaying symptoms of the flu, make sure you keep a bit of distance.

Get some sleep – make sure you are getting enough sleep at night, chronic sleep deprivation can make your immune system start to fail and raise your chances of getting the flu. Plus sleep has a load of other benefits, so it is a good idea to make sure you get your sleep.

Don't smoke – ok so the flu isn't the worst thing that can happen to you if you smoke, but among other things, cigarette smoke causes damage to your respiratory system and decreases immune response. It also destroys the hairs in your nose which filter out pollutants, meaning the flu might be able to get in. like I said though, the flu isn't the worst things that can happen here……

And remember that when YOU have the flu, you run the risk of passing it to your friends and family. So let them know of things they can do, and make sure you take a day or two off work (especially if you work in an office where the air is cycled through).