Winter has arrived and it's past time to start thinking about precautions to stay healthy during the flu season. With the influenza virus responsible for sending more than 200,000 to the hospital and claiming the lives of 36,000 people each year in the U.S., the Portland Clinic offers tips on who needs flu shots the most and offers tips to staying healthy and dodging the flu this season.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention total flu vaccines are up to 132 million doses from last year's 120 million doses and ample supplies will be available this year. Doctors at the Portland Clinic recommend while anyone who wants to avoid getting the flu should be vaccinated, there are several groups of people where getting vaccinated is specifically recommended. Those in-clude:

n Children between the ages of six months and five years old

n People with diabetes, asthma, heart diseases, kidney diseases, weakened im-mune system, sickle-cell anemia and other blood diseases and other chronic illnesses

n Pregnant women

n People who live or work with high-risk people: Med-ical professionals, nursing home and day care personnel, family members of high-risk people or those that live with kids younger than 6 months old (who can't get the immunization themselves)

n People 50 years of age and older

In addition to getting the flu shot, clinic's staff recommend the following to help maintain a healthy body during the winter season:

1. Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing is a must as viruses and bacteria can live for hours on surfaces touched by an infected person. Wash your hands in warm water with soap for 10-15 seconds and dry with disposable paper towels.

2. Eat smart and exercise a little bit everyday. Eating healthy foods with lots of vitamins, like colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and yogurt will keep you staying healthy as well as staying hydrated and keeping your system flushed out. Exercise increases the body's virus-killing cells. Also try exercising outdoors as the fresh air removes you from dehydrating indoor heating systems and germy air.

3. If you are feeling under the weather, stay home. If possible, stay home from work, school, and other activities when you feel run down. It is important to avoid exposing yourself to further germs and bacteria in addition to helping prevent others from catching your illness.

4. Get adequate sleep and relaxation. Your body is more vulnerable to illness when you are run down and short on sleep. It is important to get plenty of rest so take time to relax and unwind at the end of the day.

5. Keep your house disinfected. Use germ-killing cleaning products such as Lysol, bleach or boiling water to disinfect the house regularly. Wipe down phones, computer keyboard/mouse, door handles, toys, countertops and other common surfaces.

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