The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to all but stop concerns about the seasonal flu.

Entering our third pandemic winter, it's natural to lighten up on personal restrictions and enjoy the holiday season. But as COVID cases begin to climb in Europe, Americans should act with caution as winter approaches.

A CDC report shows that cases of the flu are already beginning to rise in parts of the U.S. as well, adding another factor in the decisions you should be making to keep yourself, and those around you, safe this winter.

Below are four key tips to help you stay healthy this winter, and while none of these strategies are foolproof, when used in conjunction with a mask they will decidedly decrease your chances of getting sick.

Get Boostered/Vaccinated

In September, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha urged Americans to get the new COVID-19 booster immediately, along with the flu shot. "You can get both your flu shot and COVID shot at the same time," he said. "It's actually a good idea."

The new booster is available now in pharmacies throughout the country, and anyone 5 and older is eligible to receive it.

Heading into the winter, where gatherings tend to be inside and can include higher-risk individuals, staying immunized against the newest variants of both COVID and the flu is a surefire way to decrease your chances of getting sick.

Watch For Symptoms

Symptoms of COVID and the flu are similar — both can cause sore throat, congestion, coughing, fatigue, headaches, and muscle pain. The current dominant variant of COVID, BA.5, is less likely to strip you of your sense of taste and smell, but keeping these symptoms in mind is a smart decision as well.

Should you start to feel under the weather it is important you address your symptoms. Testing can be useful, but it can be difficult to get accurate results in short periods, so allow up to three days before an event to test for the most accurate readings.

Remain Hygienic

Regular hand washing will reduce your chances of getting sick, according to the CDC. In conjunction with wearing high-quality, well-fitting masks, hand washing can amount to the easiest and most convenient way to stay healthy this winter.

The flu tends to spread the most on high-traffic surface areas such as door knobs, light switches, and keyboards, so remembering to clean surfaces regularly is an important step in staying protected from infection.

Consider Those At Increased Risk

Although you may be healthy and able to withstand a bout with the flu or exposure to COVID, many around us are not. Keeping at-risk individuals in mind is an important part of dealing with the winter months, especially as families gather for the holidays.

Be sure to take extra precautions if there is a chance you may come into contact with anyone above the age of 60, cancer patients, those on immunosuppressant medications, and anyone who recently underwent an organ transplant. Keeping family members and neighbors safe should be a priority for those in good health, and planning to accommodate these people can help keep everyone safe.