How to prevent the flu
How to Avoid Workplace Flu
Workplace environments can be a breeding ground for the flu, spreading the virus through close contact and shared work spaces. But don’t worry—there are ways to prevent this irritating virus from ruining your productivity. Do what you can to avoid getting the flu, and do your part to keep it from spreading if you do end up sick at work.
Getting a Flu Shot
Discover when a shot will be available.The flu shot is made available at the same time each year. A group of private pharmaceutical companies produce the vaccine and distribute it to doctor’s offices and medical facilities. Usually shipments are made in July or August, and doctors are told to start giving the shot as soon as they receive it.
- The vaccine supply usually runs out in late fall, around October, depending on how many people seek out a flu shot.
Look up where you can get the shot.Any pharmacy or medical facility should have the flu vaccine available by late summer or early fall. You can get an annual checkup from your primary care doctor and get the shot then, or you can visit a local pharmacy or urgent care. Usually facilities that have the shot advertise it, and you can assume that any primary care doctor’s office has it.
- The Affordable Care Act has prescribed that insurance companies are required to pay for the flu shot. If you pay a monthly fee for health insurance, you should be able to get the shot for free.
- If you don’t have insurance, you will have to pay for the shot, and prices can range from to per dose.
Decide if you should get one every year.In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone get a flu shot every year, but people who should definitely receive one are those with compromised immune systems: young children, pregnant women, and older adults. There are also chronic ailments that make you more susceptible to the flu.
- If you come in contact with a lot of people in your workplace, a flu shot is recommended. Healthcare workers are generally required by their employers to get the shot.
- Chronic conditions that make it easier for you to get the flu include asthma, cancer, COPD, HIV/AIDS, obesity, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis.
- Although how effective the flu shot is fluctuates every year depending on what strains of the flu dominate, the flu shot in 2019 was 59% effective in preventing the flu, up from 23% the year before.
Find out what the shot is.The flu shot is a vaccine that the World Health Organization (WHO) commissions each year. The average flu shot contains three vaccines in one, usually two type A and one type B flu virus. You can either get a shot or inhale the vaccine through your nose.
- The shot version of this vaccine often contains egg whites and a small amount of the mercury preservative called thimerosal.
- The nasal inhalant version of this shot usually contains no mercury preservative, or only trace amounts.
- Common side effects include soreness and redness around the inoculation site, muscle pain, and nausea, while severe reactions are quite rare (but can include hospitalization).
- It can take two weeks after receiving the shot to build up an immunity to the disease.
Protecting Your Body
Wash your hands.In the workplace, there are many ways you can protect yourself from the germs that spread the flu. Although the flu shot greatly reduces the impact of the flu, you can still get this sickness with a flu vaccine. It is better to protect yourself from the flu virus, which usually circulates in the U.S. during wintertime (peaking in February or March) by washing your hands.
- Washing your hands at work is important because so many people touch the same objects, such as doorknobs, pens, elevator buttons, and breakroom equipment like microwaves.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap before and after eating and after you touch your face throughout the day.
- Hand sanitizer with alcohol can be a quick substitute so that you don’t have to run to the restroom all day. Remember to use it after you touch a community object.
Keep from touching your face.Since you spread germs more quickly by touching an infected surface and then accessing your eyes, nose, or mouth, being purposeful about not touching your face during flu season is important.Do things to remind yourself not to touch your face like posting a reminder sign in your office or on mirrors that you look in frequently.
Wipe down surfaces.If sharing can’t be avoided, be sure to wipe down surfaces with a bleach cleaning cloth or other disinfectant. You may also want to disinfect surfaces as you move throughout your work day, such as having a bleach cleaning wipe handy for doorknobs.
Eat a healthy diet.One of the best ways to prevent the flu is to boost your immune system through healthy eating. Eat foods high in vitamin C and zinc. Practice healthy eating at work by bringing your own lunch and including foods known to help prevent the flu: fish like salmon and tuna (omega-3s), oysters (zinc), garlic (antioxidants), and citrus (vitamin C).
- You can also take vitamin supplements that contain vitamin C or zinc to give you an even stronger immune boost.
Preventing the Spread of Germs
Cover your face when sneezing or coughing.If you do have the flu, you need to do your part to prevent spreading this disease to your coworkers. It’s just common decency, and showing your coworkers that you are being conscientious will promote workplace harmony. Start by making sure you cover your face with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and throw it away immediately.
- Coughing directly into your hand is discouraged, and even though a “vampire cough” is better (coughing into your elbow), the coverage a tissue provides is preferable.
Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.Even if you use a tissue, your hands still come in contact with moisture from your nose and mouth. Show respect to your coworkers by washing your hands right away, either with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or going to the sink.
- You may also choose to wear disposable gloves to prevent getting germs directly on your hands. If so, change them after sneezing or coughing, even into a tissue.
Stay home if you’re sick.If you are sick will any illness that has flu-like symptoms, even if it is not confirmed to be the flu, the best way to prevent spreading it to coworkers is to stay home. In fact, do not return to work until you have been free of fever for 24 hours.
See a doctor.Even though the flu is often a disease that must run its course, if you feel your symptoms are bad enough, you may want to see a doctor. A doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs to reduce the time period of the flu, and can determine if you need to be hospitalized. This is a wise course of action if your flu virus is making you miss a lot of days at work.
Video: 7 ways to help prevent flu germs from spreading
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