Every cold and flu season presents a constant battle against germs, but this year has caused even more concern as people take steps to prevent not only the regular flu viruses but the H1N1 virus as well. This is especially true in the workplace, where many people often work together in close proximity. So how can you prevent yourself from catching the latest bug to go around? And if you do get sick, how do you know when to tough it out, and go to work anyway, or when to stay home?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises that anyone who is sick with flu symptoms stay at home, get plenty of rest and check with a health care provider as needed. Common flu symptoms include:
• Fever (usually high)
• Extreme fatigue
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle aches
• Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
(though more common among
children than adults)
If you suffer from the symptoms above, do yourself (and your co-workers) a favor, and stay home. You’ll probably get better faster if you allow your body to rest, and your co-workers will appreciate that you didn’t bring your germs into the office.
To avoid spreading illness, it’s recommended that you wait at least 24 hours after your fever has dropped before returning to work. When you do get back to work, be courteous and sanitize your desk, phone and other surfaces to rid them of any remaining germs.
Even if you’re not sick, it’s a good idea to regularly sanitize common areas that are used by many people in the office—copiers, light switches, door handles, microwave, coffee pot, etc. According to the CDC, germs are often spread when a person touches something that’s contaminated and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can live for a long time (up to two hours for some types) on surfaces like doorknobs, desks and tables. So avoid touching your face, and cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. And if you haven’t heard by now, don’t use your hand (which you’ll likely then use to touch another surface) to cover your mouth. Instead, cough into your elbow.
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds (about the amount of time it takes to sing a couple rounds of “Happy Birthday to You”). The soap combined with the rubbing action is most effective in dislodging and removing germs. However, if soap and water are not available, try using alcohol-based gel sanitizers or disposable hand wipes.