Winter is rapidly approaching, and that means flu season is upon us. Usually, flu season is considered as being October through about February, which means that we’re cruising right into the flu danger zone. The flu, aside from just being downright unpleasant and exhausting for the person who’s sick, is also problematic for the workplace. With coworkers dropping like flies to illness, it can be a scramble to get the work done that needs to get done. So, before everyone starts getting sick and calling out from work, we’ve got some tips to help you prevent the spread of flu at your workplace.
1. Know the symptoms of the flu.
The flu can become pretty serious. You need to be able to recognize the symptoms so you know what you’re up against – there’s a difference between being sick or having a cold and having the flu. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that comes on very suddenly.
Symptoms to watch out for are…
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
The flu and cold have similar symptoms because they’re both respiratory illnesses (although caused by different viruses.) This can make it hard to figure out which one ails you. A doctor may have to do tests to figure out which it is. Generally, cold symptoms are less severe than the flu. The flu can lead to serious health complications, and that’s why it’s important to do all you can to prevent the spread of it.
2. Stay home if you feel sick.
If you start to feel sick with some flu-like symptoms, stay home. Don’t go into the office – call in sick and take the day off or work from home. You might want to tough it out and work through it, but it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to stay home so you don’t get anyone else sick. Really, it’s a courtesy to your co-workers to take a sick day, plus it’ll help you get the rest you need to recover. It’s important to get lots of rest and sleep if you’re sick. It helps you recover faster because your body can focus its strength on fighting off the illness.
You really should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever goes away and stays away without medication. You can spread the flu for a full day after the symptoms resolve, so even if you’re feeling better it’s best to just take another day to make sure you won’t spread the flu.
3. Keep your distance from those who are sick.
Of course, you don’t want to be rude. But you also don’t want to get sick. Try to keep some space between you and anyone who’s showing flu-like symptoms. Coughs and sneezes travel a long way. According to the CDC, the flu virus spreads when those who are sick cough, sneeze, or talk and spray infected droplets onto unsuspecting innocents nearby.
4. Wash your hands frequently.
During flu season, it’s very important to wash your hands often. Use hot water and soap and scrub your hands for at least twenty seconds (you can sing the alphabet in your head to time yourself) to make sure that you’ve really cleaned your hands of germs. It’s especially important to wash your hands before you eat and after you cough or sneeze, or if you touch your nose, mouth, or eyes. Frequent hand-washing helps lower the amount of virus or germs that can spread through touching surfaces.
If it’s not possible to wash your hands with water and soap, use a hand sanitizer with a high alcohol content. Consider keeping a bottle at your desk or somewhere at the workplace where it will be easily accessible. Clean hands are important, especially if you work in a place like a restaurant or retail store where there are a lot of people. (And if you work at a restaurant, hygiene is part of acing a health inspection.)
5. Cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze.
If you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, then toss it. This will help prevent the spread of germs through the air and on hands. Sneezes and coughs spray farther than we think, so employ tissues to contain them. Be sure to wash your hands after sneezing or coughing. You can spread the flu for one day before you start to show symptoms.
6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Basically, try not to touch your face. The eyes, nose, and mouth are easy ways for viruses and germs to enter your system – they can get transferred from your hands.
7. Keep your body’s defenses up.
Stay healthy. Being healthy will make it easier for your body to resist and fight off illness.
Some tips for keeping your body’s immune system strong…
- Sleep a lot. Sleep is crucial to strengthen your immune system.
- Eat healthily.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Be active and get exercise.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as phones, keyboards, and doorknobs.
- Try to keep your stress level down – being stressed can negatively affect your immune system.
8. Consider getting a flu vaccine.
The CDC recommends getting a flu shot every year in order to get the most updated vaccine. Talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot to lower your chances of getting sick.
When there are a lot of people in a small area, such as an office or business, it’s all too easy for the flu to spread and wreak havoc. Do your part to help prevent the spread of the flu virus at your workplace. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands frequently. And if you start feeling sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms, stay home and get some rest. Your body – and your coworkers – will appreciate it.
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