In recent weeks, the number of reported influenza cases has increased in Texas, and doctor’s offices and hospitals in the Greater Houston area have also seen an increase in diagnosed cases. With flu activity on the rise, there’s an even greater likelihood that illnesses could spread within households. What can you do to help protect your family?
Regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs and prevent the spread to others, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. While these are helpful preventive measures to practice at all times, individuals who live under the same roof are encouraged to employ additional best practices to keep themselves healthy during flu season.
“To prevent the spread of illness within a household, I recommend individuals use single-use tissues instead of handkerchiefs, cough or sneeze into their elbows instead of their hands, avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth, avoid sharing kitchenware, and rinse all fruits and vegetables prior to cooking and eating,” said Kesha Zaveri M.D., a family medicine physician with Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Greater Heights.
Additional healthy habits include cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects such as countertops and doorknobs and wearing plastic gloves when preparing food. Eating a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables also gives the body what it needs to fight off illnesses. In addition to good hygiene practices, Dr. Zaveri says it’s critical to be proactive at the first signs of illness.
“It is very important to seek treatment from a primary care physician at the first signs of an illness,” Dr. Zaveri recommends. “These symptoms include persistent fevers, defined as a temperature greater than 100.4°, difficulty breathing, severe wheezing that is not relieved with inhalers, or nausea and vomiting.”
In recent weeks, temperatures in the Greater Houston area have dropped significantly and at times dipped below freezing. Dr. Zaveri says the chilly weather can make it harder to fight off infections, which is why flu vaccinations are highly recommended.
“While studies do not show a direct link between cold weather and transmission of illness, cold weather can exacerbate an already existing illness. During cold weather, there tends to be an increasing number of people sharing an enclosed space, which is why we often see more infections during the winter season. Research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that the flu virus does transmit faster in colder weather because the virus capsule becomes tougher and stronger at colder temperatures. This is why it is important to receive the flu shot during the peak of its season (between September and December).”
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season, according to the CDC. People who are already experiencing flu-like symptoms should seek treatment from a primary care physician as soon as possible. Memorial Hermann Medical Group has primary care physicians available throughout the Greater Houston area. In addition, Memorial Hermann Urgent Care locations provide service to walk-in patients from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.