Christmas is a time for family gatherings as they open presents, have a big meal and celebrate the season.

Unfortunately, this is also flu season and those family gatherings are a perfect way to spread the flu.

It may be a difficult thing to do, but if a person has the flu, they need to stay away from those family gatherings and not go to work especially if they have a fever, said Mary Ohl, nurse for Pratt County Health.

The flu is most contagious if a person has a fever. They should stay home and not go out until they are fever free for 24 hours. A fever is considered a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, Ohl said.

Flu symptoms include a fever, runny nose, coughing and sneezing. Flu is spread through droplets that can pass from sneezing, coughing, touching infected surfaces such as nose or mouth and can even be spread just by talking.

Flu can be passed before symptoms are even present. A day before symptoms are evident, that person can be contagious. They are also contagious from five to seven days after they get the disease.

Some people might want to "tough it out" and continue working but if not treated properly, flu can develop other health complications such as pneumonia.

People with weak immune systems, such as those on chemotherapy, are more at risk for complications from the flu and having respiratory distress.

When a parent gets the flu, it puts a special burden on that parent. If possible, find someone else to take care of the children so the parent can get rest.

If that isn't possible, remember that frequent hand washing is vital to help prevent the spread of flu. Use tissues and throw them away then wash hands again.

Avoid touching the nose, mouth and eyes. These areas are all prime places for spreading infection.

Other ways to help prevent spreading the flu include staying away from people who have the flu, keeping a sick person in a separate room from the rest of the family and wiping down exposed surfaces with household disinfectants.

If a child gets the flu, the parent should call the doctor as needed and be sure the child gets plenty of rest and fluids. If the child is under 5, it's a good idea to touch base with a doctor, especially if they child appears to get better then gets sick again.

Also, do not let children go to school, day care or camp if they are sick.

Getting over the flu takes time but if not treated properly, it can take a lot longer to get well. Bed rest, plenty of fluids and a good diet will help make recovery go quicker.

Preventing the flu in the first place is the best way to avoid the problem at all. Flu shots are recommended for everyone over six months of age.

Doing all these steps will help keep a person from getting the flu.

"You've got to use common sense to protect yourself," Ohl said.