Preventing COVID-19

We are all at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. There are steps you can take to prevent yourself and others from getting sick, starting with an updated COVID-19 vaccination.

Steps to help protect against COVID-19

Help protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from severe illness from COVID-19 by following these recommendations. 

1. Stay Updated with COVID-19 Vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccines help protect you from getting seriously ill from COVID-19 by helping your body develop protection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are available for the 2023-24 fall and winter virus season for everyone 6 months and older. Updated COVID-19 vaccines from Novavax are available for everyone 12 years and older. 

  • Restore immunity because protection from vaccination does decline over time. 
  • Provide protection against the currently circulating virus variants because the virus is always changing.
  • Reduce your chance of having Long COVID. 

  • Everyone 5 years and older should at least one updated COVID-19 vaccine, a minimum of two months after your last dose.
  • Individuals 12 and older have the option of receiving either a Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you have never been vaccinated against COVID-19 and opt to receive the updated Novavax vaccine, you will need two doses.
  • Children 6 months - 4 years need multiple doses, including at least 1 dose of updated COVID-19 vaccine. This age group has varying recommendations based on whether they were vaccinated previously or not and which vaccine they received.  
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely immunocompromised should talk to their healthcare provider about additional updated doses. 
  • NEW! Adults 65 years and older are recommended to receive an additional updated 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months following the previous updated (2023-24) dose.

2. Wash Your Hands Often

Scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you are unable to wash your hands, using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is a good alternative.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth—as it allows the germs on your hands to reach moist, porous surface tissue where the germs can enter your body and cause infection.

Cough and sneeze into a tissue, or elbow if necessary. Then immediately dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.

illustration of man wearing mask with infected lungs and woman sneezing.

Download the Preventing Infectious Respiratory Illnesses Poster for your workplace or community organization with an overview of handwashing and use of hand sanitizer.

3. Improve Ventilation

Improving ventilation and filtration can decrease the number of virus particles indoors and help protect you from getting infected with COVID-19 since spread happens easier inside rather than outside.

  • Getting fresh outdoor air into your home by opening windows
  • Filtering the air that is there and
  • Improving air flow

You can also use CDC’s Interactive Home Ventilation Tool to learn how to decrease the level of COVID-19 virus particles during and after guests visit your home.

4. Disinfect if You Have COVID-19

If someone is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19, then you should disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, light switches, faucets and phones, often and with an approved disinfectant. If surfaces are dirty, first clean them using soap and water.

5. Stay Home if You Feel Unwell

Stay home and test for COVID-19 if you feel unwell. Seek treatment if you have COVID-19 and are at high-risk for severe disease.

Get free at-home COVID-19 tests.

6. Wear a Mask

Masks are a good way to help protect others when you have symptoms of COVID-19, received a positive COVID-19 test or were exposed to someone with COVID-19.

  • People may choose to wear a mask at any time.
  • Consider wearing a mask in indoor public spaces when your community has medium or high COVID-19 hospital admission levels. 
  • If you or someone in your household is not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • If you or someone in your household is at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness such as those aged 65+, pregnant or has certain medical conditions 
  • For additional protection against COVID-19.
  • To help prevent possible spread to others.

Some masks provide better protection than others. Respirators (e.g., N95) provide higher protection than masks.

Face masks should:

  • Fit snugly against your face, covering your mouth and nose.
  • Be comfortable for you and be one you can wear correctly.
  • Provide good protection and include a nose wire.

CDC has more information about masks on their website.

COVID-19 Vaccine Facts

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and provide protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death. Here are some more facts you should know:

  • COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccines cannot give you COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccines only protect you against the virus that causes COVID-19, not any other respiratory virus.
  • It takes a couple weeks after vaccination for your body to build protection.
  • Side effects after vaccination are common, mostly mild, and differ from person to person. This is a sign that your body is building immunity.
  • You should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine regardless of past vaccination status and if you already had COVID-19.
  • If you recently tested positive for COVID-19, you still should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine, but you can consider waiting 3 months after COVID-19 illness to get vaccinated.
  • You can receive both your COVID-19 and flu vaccinations at the same visit.

Protect Yourself this Respiratory Virus Season

COVID-19, Flu and RSV vaccines are available to help provide protection this fall and winter.
Read blog

COVID-19 Updates

Have questions about COVID-19 vaccination, testing and treatment coverage? View our guide for the most updated information.
View guide

Talk to an expert

Our Lung HelpLine is staffed by registered nurses and respiratory therapists ready to help answer your questions about COVID-19. Connect with us by phone, email or live chat.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 5, 2024

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