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Hand-washing key to not getting sick during holidays

Posted at 5:36 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 20:54:03-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — That popular post on Facebook? Let that be the only viral thing you share with people.

Dr. Kim Onufrak, the public health district medical director for Nueces County and Corpus Christi, said hygiene is the most important key to staying healthy especially during the holidays.

"A lot of times, people will cough or they'll sneeze then they'll shake someone's hand and that person will go and eat," she said. "If you touch your face or you eat, that's the way you ingest it also."

Dr. Onufrak said the viruses going around are respiratory. So if you're coughing or sneezing, those droplets linger in the air and can survive on surfaces for several hours.

"Body aches, fever, chills, running nose, cough, congestion, sometimes even nausea, vomiting and diarrhea," she said.

She said there has been an uptick in flu cases here in town as compared to last year around this time.

"They think that there is a certain strain this year that they are seeing more common right now," she said. "They think that's what the increase in flu cases are coming from."

So, are you sick or is it allergies? Dr. Onufrak said if you have the flu you basically feel like you've been hit by a truck. As far as allergies, she said you might just have a nagging cough.

"Pollen count is a lot higher right now," Dr. Onufrak said. "So you will have some allergy symptoms -- like the cough -- that comes from you post nasal drip."

Dr. Onufrak said the flu vaccination is key.

"Cover your sneeze. Cover you cough," she said. "And if your sick please stay home."

But let's take it back to basics. Are you even washing your hands long enough?

Olga Bacio, pharmacist at ASP Cares, said the bottom line is people need to wash their hands, and often.

"Make sure you wash your hands under warm water for at least 20 seconds," Bacio said.

Dr. Onufrak adds, make sure the soap goes up to your wrists.

Bacio said people need to rest during the holidays, which can be a very busy and stressful time.

So do preventative measures like zinc, Echinacea tea and Vitamin C drinks make a difference?

"In some instances, they (supplements) can help but they really are just going to shorten the duration of your symptoms by maybe a day," Bacio said.

Bacio said getting prescribed an antibiotic is not always the answer -- specifically when treating a virus. She said over-using antibiotics can cause complications.

"So that's something that we see especially here, with the populations that are more immune-suppressed," Bacio said. "And have a harder time with infections."

Dr. Onufrak also said the general rule so your germs don't go viral is to wait 24 hours after you are fever and symptom-free before returning to work or school.

Because no one wants your germs for Christmas.