Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Flu Season Etiquette - What you need to know about flu and the office

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Flu season is upon us and this means the workplace becomes a potential ‘danger zone’ for coughing, sneezing and germs. Why? Because confined spaces and limited fresh air turns the office into a breeding ground for germs and flu.

The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says people with flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away, mainly by droplets made when they cough, sneeze or talk. Touching surfaces or objects then touching your own mouth also aids in the virus spreading.

The flu virus is associated with about 36 000 deaths and half a million hospitalisations every year and is to blame for 40-million days of missed work and school world-wide annually and yet a recent online survey found that 84% of employees admit going to work while sick.

You can be infected with flu 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick, explains PharmaChoice spokesperson, pharmacist, Liezl van Tonder.

“Flu symptoms start 1 to four days after the virus enters the body, so you may pass on the flu to someone else before you realise you are sick therefore it is important to boost your immune system and protect yourself over the flu season to ensurerisks are minimised.”

“Wash your hands often! This is especially important before eating, after using the restroom, after meetings, after using shared equipment, shaking hands and after beingoutside,” she says. “Keep some waterless hand sanitiser at yourdesk or in your bag so you can avoid visiting the restroom hundreds of times a day.

“Avoid common items, germy hotspots include sink faucets, door handles and your office keyboard, mouse and coffee machine, give objects you touch often a once a week wipe down to disinfect,” she adds. “By doing this you may avoidgetting germs and spreading any you may have.”

“Wash your coffee cup with hot soapy water, as just rinsing is not sufficient to remove contamination and try limit your visits to the office kitchen, as it is a breeding ground for the flu.”

She recommends boosting your immune system. “It is  the best way to take pre-emptive measures to ensure your immune system is in top form,” she says “When our immune systems are robust and the viral exposure is relatively limited, we shrug off any attacks. But when the viral contact is repeated and quite heavy, or when our immune systems are compromised, for instance at the change of season, or in the cold of winter, we succumb, and get a cold, or flu.”

She suggests a maintenance plan of ViralChoice capsules, two a day with food and at least half a glass of water for eight weeks. “Give it a break for a week and then start again,” she adds. “ViralChoice is a powerhouse of vitamins and antioxidants and contains some of the most highly-rated boosters provided by nature.”

She says that it works in two ways by helping reduce the susceptibility to cold and flu infection andaids in recovery by reducing the duration and severity of colds and flu. “It will go a long way in ensuring you maintain optimal health during the throws of cold and flu season.”

According to van Tonder plenty of sleep is also key in maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the winter as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet, keeping hydrated and exercising.

She warns that you should limit your interactions with co-workers, politely avoid handshakes and casual conversations. “If a co-worker shows signs of the flu, politely ask them to go home and if they don’t, try keep your distance. Ensure you limit the spread of germs, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and ensure you throw it away. One sneeze can spray up to 3,000 infectious droplets into the air.”

“If you get sick stay at home at least for 24-hours after your fever is gone, don’t go to the office unless you absolutely have to,” advises van Tonder. “Ensure you follow your company protocol when calling in sick, if you do it in a timely fashion you wont be leaving the people you work with panicked, which will give you the time off to rest and recover.”

“Consider the flu shot which is an effective way to stop flu transmission and maintain productivity in the workplace, by ensuring this absenteeism from the workplace could be reduced by as much as 78% with vaccination.”

“The journey to good health begins with the right choice so ensure your body gets the essential building blocks you need for healthy immune function,” says van Tonder. “In healthy adults, colds and flu bugs are often no more than simply an inconvenience. But they can make you vulnerable to more sinister things, especially respiratory tract infections. So take them seriously, and have a sniffle-free winter!”

For more information visit: http://www.pharmachoice.co.za or facebook.com/PharmaChoiceZA or Twitter: @PharmaChoiceZA

Published in Health and Medicine