It’s that time of year again: flu season.

The flu likes to spread over the holidays, when friends and family from different pockets of the country get together to share in the festive joy — and less festive germs.

How to fight the flu

  • Get the flu shot.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Keep common surfaces clean and disinfected (eg. doorknobs and light switches).
  • If you get sick, stay home.

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada's Fight Flu website

And so Montreal doctors are using the occasion to remind everyone of a few simple tips to help keep the flu from spreading and how to prevent trips to the ER.

“We’re flu’s best ally,” says Dr. Frederic Dankoff of the Royal Victoria Hospital, adding that if everyone who contracted the flu stayed home from the outset, it wouldn’t spread as far and wide as it does.

Dankoff stresses the importance of hand washing.

“I’d like the parents to know it’s normal to feel anxious when your child has a fever, especially when the fever’s high and in the 39, 40 [degree] range. However, it’s a normal symptom. It’s normal that your child will develop a fever to try to fight this infection,” says Dr. Antonio D’Angelo, chief medical officer at Sainte-Justine Hospital.

D'Angelo says a high fever lasting more than three days, stiff neck, respiratory problems and trouble swallowing are reasons to go to the hospital. Otherwise, home treatment or visiting a clinic may be Montrealers’ best bet.

Meanwhile, public health officials also say it's not too late to get the flu vaccine. They say pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses, the very young and the very old should all consider getting the flu shot.

Peak flu season is expected to hit mid-January.