This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sam’s Club. All opinions are 100% mine.

While the colors of fall are vibrant and something I look forward to every year, this beautiful display of Nature’s wonders also reminds me that it’s time for cold and flu season. That means it’s time to prepare to stay well and avoid catching either of them.

There are plenty of ways to help your family get ready for the flu season. First, the flu shot. While you can’t be immunized against every strain of flu out there, the injection is developed to prevent the flu strain most likely to hit this year.

Why get a flu shot? Because every year up to 1 in 5 people in the U.S. contracts the flu which causes lost school and work time. Worse, in the 2015-16 flu season, more than 300,000 people were hospitalized with flu-related complications and sadly, every 12 minutes a someone 65 years and older dies from the flu. However, you don’t have to be old to die from the flu. It also hits children and people with a compromised immune system, but even healthy people are hospitalized and die from it.

Where to Get Your Flu Shot – You Have Choices

I’ve always gotten my flu shot at my doctor’s office, but that means making an appointment and paying a co-pay. Or worse, trying to squeeze the flu shot into an already scheduled appointment which may or may not fall into the best time of year to provide the earliest protection.

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This year my mother mentioned she was going to Sam’s Club to get her flu shot, so I offered to take her. For so many years she accompanied me to get my immunizations, it seemed appropriate that now I’d be taking her now. Of course, I was hoping she’d have a similar experience as I did as a kid in the 60’s – long lines of screaming kids and a hard jab by a doctor while sternly being held in place by a uniformed nurse in sensible white shoes. It still gives me nightmares.

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But that was not to be.  At Sam’s Club, we found a helpful staff and fantastic Pharmacist who made the whole experience super easy – that’s not fair! In fact, I’ve never been to the Sam’s Club Pharmacy before, and I have to tell you, it’s the first time I’ve seen a Pharmacist come out from behind the counter and help customers. Boy, was I was impressed by his helpful attitude!

The Pharmacist made my mother feel completely at ease during the process. They laughed and joked as he prepared her injection. He made the whole process pleasant. I didn’t have my new insurance card with me, or I’d have gotten my flu shot as well. I’ll be going back in a few days to fix that because I want to be protected this flu season too.

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Sam’s Club accepts walk-ins for immunizations including flu shots, so there is no appointment to make. However, you do have to be a Sam’s Club member to take advantage of this service. Additionally, Sam’s Club Pharmacy even bills your insurance company for you, so it’s painless. They also provide other immunizations in addition to the flu shot. The Pharmacist recommended that my mother get a pneumonia shot since she’s about to turn 79 years old and she was able to get both shots in no time!

Natural Ways You Can Help Your Becoming Ill During the Flu Season

Next, get yourself and your family as prepared as possible for the season by upping your natural immunity. Helping your immune system stay one step ahead of the flu virus will have you feeling better quickly should you not be able to ward off the virus off completely.

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The first step is to wash your hands; often. It’s the simplest way to avoid the flu. Skip the antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers and instead use good old soap and warm water. Lather up and scrub your hands together making sure you do the front, back, and nails. For kids, have them sing the “Happy Birthday” song to help them wash long enough to be effective. It’s also important to remind your family members to cover their mouth when coughing and sneezing. Teach them to use the crook of their elbow instead of their hand to avoid contamination.

Next, optimize your Vitamin D levels. A simple blood test at your doctor’s office will tell you if you’re at the optimal level. If your levels are too low, your doctor will let you know the amount to supplement to take. Vitamin D is essential for building and maintaining your immunity.

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You should also maintain your gut health by eating fermented vegetables. If you can’t stomach them, take a prebiotic or probiotic  (always check with your doctor first). These beneficial bacteria have been shown to reduce the symptoms of flu including fever, coughing, and runny nose ( Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences April 2, 2012).

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Get plenty of sleep, reduce your stress level, and get some exercise. Also, add lots of garlic and oregano to your diet. Both offer protection against bacteria and viruses.

Staying well this flu season is something we’re working on accomplishing. I hope you’ll join us in the fight and stop by Sam’s Club for your flu shot soon! Not sure where your local store is? Use this find a club page.