Experts say stopping the spread of the seasonal flu virus starts at home
These often overlooked home hygiene practices are keys to preventing sickness
With this year’s flu season, accompanied by slowly rising COVID-19 cases, experts remind us that staving off the flu virus typically begins with common practices that families can do at home.
“It’s important to ensure that our personal spaces are free of transmissible diseases like the flu. Contrary to popular belief, the flu is caused by a virus different from the common cold, thus symptoms tend to last longer and are more severe,” says Dr. Gyneth Bibera, Country Medical Director of GSK Philippines. “Patients will experience the typical runny nose, coughing, headaches, fevers, and fatigue. The severity, though, can often lead to the inability to do daily tasks, the need for doctor consultations, or even hospitalizations,” she adds.
Here are five things you can do to prevent the flu:
Disinfect frequently touched surfaces
Influenza viruses can survive outside the body and generally stay active longer on steel, plastic, and hard surfaces than on fabric and softer materials. They can survive for 24 to 48 hrs on hard non-porous surfaces, and eight to 12 hrs on cloth, paper, and tissues. Regularly disinfecting these surfaces with a household cleaner containing soap or detergent will help stop the spread of the virus. Focus on areas frequently touched like door handles, light switches, faucets, stair rails, or tables.
Toss your trash every day
Many communities have weekly or biweekly garbage collections, but it’s worth making a point to dispose of trash every day. Keep a wastebasket outside the house, in a garage, or by the front gate. This prevents contaminated items and germs that cause respiratory illness like flu from lingering inside the home.
Launder your linens regularly
Sheets, blankets, or pillowcases used daily may become infected by viruses. This is especially true if an infected household member recently used the linens. Changing and washing sheets weekly with hot water, can kill flu viruses that are present. This is because heat above 75° C kills flu viruses.
Practice good hygiene
Personal hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent the flu. This includes washing hands frequently, particularly after coughing or sneezing, after using the bathroom, before and after handling food, or after coming in contact with someone sick. It also includes not sharing personal items such as pillows, towels, utensils, and the like. Of course, covering the mouth when coughing, taking regular showers, and other basic hygiene practices are also necessary.
Get your flu vaccines
The World Health Organization recommends that flu shots be administered once every year, which is applicable for both adults and even children when they reach six months old. Getting annual flu vaccines significantly reduces the risk of contracting the flu virus.
Alongside practicing proper measures and being mindful of the environment to protect one’s home from the virus, having updated flu vaccines is the best way to keep oneself safe. “Although flu cases tend to rise at this time of the year, each individual and communal effort within the household will do a lot to protect the health of the wider community and keep overall flu numbers down,” says Dr. Bibera. “We encourage all Filipinos to talk to their doctors and get their jabs done because it’s us and our efforts that will help keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”