HOUSTON -

You may notice your co-workers dropping like flies these days. Viruses are running rampant in the Houston area.

Family Medicine Dr. Nicholas Solomos with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic told Local 2, "We're seeing a lot more (flu) cases early in the year."

Influenza A is hitting Texas hard, spreading quickly through offices and classrooms.

Dr. Solomos said, "You're actually contagious a day before you're ill and that's the reason it spreads so easily is people walk around doing their daily routine not knowing they're ill."

Dr. Solomos said the best way to avoid the flu is to get the flu vaccine.

The quadrivalent available this year covers four strains, but since it's effective about 60 percent of the time, try to keep your distance from others.

Dr. Solomos explained, "Generally, it's about a six foot spread. Wash your hands regularly. That helps a lot and try to avoid crowded places."

That's kind of tough this time of year which is why the common cold is also spreading like wildfire.

Dr. Solomos said, "With colds, generally you don't feel well. You don't feel 100 percent. You may have a scratchy throat, runny nose, congestion, cough, but you don't have the severe aches and chills that you do with influenza."

Remember because these are viral, antibiotics are not the answer.

Dr. Solomos explained, "Antibiotics don't work against viruses. In fact, you're more likely to get side effects from the antibiotics rather than any real benefits."

But, antiviral medications may make all the difference for flu sufferers, if you act fast.

Dr. Solomos said, "If somebody develops influenza symptoms and we can get to them within 24 to 48 hours, there are some antiviral medicines that they can use to shorten the duration of the illness and the severity of the illness."

Cold and flu symptoms generally last five to ten days. So how can you speed up your recovery time?

The answer may be at your nearest pharmacy.
Walgreens Registered Pharmacist Saroosh Lodhi told Local 2, "People are coming in coughing, cold, body aches, just a general feeling of not being well."

So when you're stumbling through aisles and aisles of remedies, how do you know what works best?

We asked Lodhi to break it down for us.

When it comes to horrible nasal congestion, Lodhi said, "That's probably what we see the most. Sudaphedrin (behind the counter) and phenylephrine (over the counter) are the two... for that sinus congestion."

For that hacking cough, look for dextromethorphan (DM).

Lodhi said, "Usually with an expectorant as well to help you loosen up any mucus."

For sore throats, Lodhi recommends antihistamines even if you're not a typical allergy sufferer.

She said, "It really helps with the sore throat because it's usually a histamine release that's causing that sore throat, so (try) an anti-allergy (medication) plus lozenges."

For body aches and headaches that often come with the flu, try acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Before you head to check out, you'll want to check in with the pharmacist to let them know if you're on any prescription medications or supplements that could possibly interfere with over the counter medications.

Lodhi said, "We have the tools back there and the knowledge to screen for any drug interactions, any adverse events that may happen and let you know if this is OK or not OK for you to take."

So as the viruses are circulating, wipe down shared workspaces with antibacterial wipes, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and stay well by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.

These habits go a long way in keeping you out of the doctor's office.

If you are sick, doctors can't stress enough the importance of getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated and not returning to work until your fever has subsided for more than 24 hours.