Avoiding Illness at Work

Avoiding Illness at Work

A cold or the flu seems inevitable – and may be even more likely if you aren’t careful to avoid illness at work.

You wake up with a runny nose, a headache, and a low-grade fever. You just want to stay in with a cup of tea…but you have two projects to finish at work and playing catch-up will be brutal if you miss a day. On the other hand, your body is telling you to take it easy. What should you do?

When to stay home

Some people feel pressured to go into work even when they are under the weather. However, pushing yourself when you’re ill can make you feel worse. Plus, you’re putting your coworkers at risk of getting sick, too. If you have any of the following, you’re better off staying at home:

  • A bad cold or the flu. Symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, extreme fatigue, body aches, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, and sometimes nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.
  • Fever
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • A highly contagious condition, such as pinkeye
  • An illness that makes getting to or doing your job hard or impossible, such as a migraine headache that affects your vision

How to stop the spread of germs at work

If you’re under the weather, but have to work, or if there’s a bug going around the office, here are some ways you can combat the germs:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the crook of your arm when you sneeze or cough.
  • Wash your hands often. To get your hands clean, you have to rub them together in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. That’s about the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” in your head two times.
  • Use hand sanitizing gels when you’re not near a sink. Rub a dime-size amount between your palms and all over your fingers until your hands are dry. A gel may be more convenient to clean your hands than washing them every time you blow your nose.
  • Wipe down your phone, computer keyboard, mouse, desk and chair arms with disinfectant wipes at least once a day. Germs can live on these surfaces for 2 hours or more. Common areas, like the staff kitchen (refrigerator handle, microwave door, and water cooler), should also be cleaned regularly.
  • Ask about working from home. If you feel under the weather but well enough to do your job, ask your supervisor if telecommuting is an option. By working from home you will keep your germs to yourself instead of passing them to your coworkers.

Other ways to stay healthy this season

In addition to taking those basic precautions, you may be able to help keep your immune system strong by doing the following:

  • Get plenty of rest every night.
  • Eat balanced, nutritious meals, including foods rich in vitamins.
  • Exercise regularly, with your doctor’s permission.
  • Keep stress levels at bay. The holidays can be a tiring, emotional time, so get a little rest and relaxation now that the chaotic season has wound down.
  • Drink enough fluid everyday. Both cold weather and indoor heating can be very drying, so it’s important to stay well hydrated.
  • Talk with your doctor about annual flu vaccination. Also ask her whether you need pneumococcal vaccination.
  • Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.
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