Staying Healthy in the Workplace – Tips for Preventing Colds and Flus

Staying Healthy in the Workplace – Tips for Preventing Colds and Flus

As many of you have already experienced, we’re entering cold and flu season as we move into autumn and winter.  The common cold is a virus that is transmitted by respiratory droplets of an infected person.  Did you know that it’s possible to send cold virus flying up to six feet with an uncovered cough or sneeze?!  I’m sure that you’re exposed to dozens of friends, family, and coworkers who will have viral infections this fall, so here are a few important suggestions to help prevent yourself from catching the common illnesses that everyone is passing around.

1.  Keep your hands away from your face – Touching your eyes, nose, and mouth after shaking a coworkers hand is a surefire way to make sure that you’ve been exposed to any germs they had on her hands.  Mucous membranes on your face transmit germs to your immune system, which causes infection.

2.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze – I don’t care whether you use a handkerchief, a clean tissue, your hand, or your sleeve.  I do encourage everyone to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze to avoid introducing that six foot viral spray radius into their office or home.  Consider how much you would appreciate it if your neighbor at work did the same.

3.  Eat nutritiously to keep your immune system strong – Vegetables are the best source of nutrients, and I guarantee that most of us don’t eat nearly enough of them.  Choose colorful, in-season vegetables whenever possible, and don’t be afraid to try new ones once or twice a month!

4.  Drink extra water – Again, most of us are relatively less-than-adequately hydrated at any given time, and this can lower our chances of fending off infection.  Aim for 6-8 glasses of water daily, and limit your caffeine intake during the winter (I know, that’s when you need the extra energy the most!), but caffeine can promote water loss from your body.

5.  Consider taking supplements – Supplement recommendations should be personalized and specific doses suggested by your physician, but consider taking vitamin C or zinc to help support your immune system during this time of extra infectious exposure.

6.  Wash your hands – You may think this is really basic, but I can’t even count how many people I’ve seen walk out of a public restroom without washing their hands.  I encourage everyone to wash frequently during the autumn and winter; wash before eating, after shaking hands with other people, and of course after going to the bathroom to help prevent germ transfer.

7.  Clean your keyboard and phone – Even if it’s not shared, using disinfectant wipes to clean your keyboard and phone during peak illness season can do wonders in containing transfer.  Not only will this prevent your coworker’s germs from being an inch from your face, but it can limit reinfection from your own germs after you come back from sick leave.  Cold and flu viruses have been shown to survive on objects for up to 48 hours.

8.  Consider getting a flu vaccine – I encourage everyone to educate themselves on the pros and cons of getting vaccinated against influenza.  Peak flu season is generally around February, but last year Seattle saw the peak season much closer to November.  Young children, elderly adults, and pregnant women are most at risk for dangerous complications of contracting the flu virus.

9.  Exercise throughout the day – I’m fully aware that exercise is one of those topics that everyone would prefer to not discuss, but recent research shows that walking around your office or cubicle 5 minutes of every hour is more beneficial for your heart, lungs, muscles, and immune system that working out hard once daily for one hour-long session.  Exercise is beneficial regardless, but if possible, take a break when you can to move your body and promote additional immune support against illness.

10.  Protect yourself around your sick kids – As many parents are very aware, your children are hotbeds of most illnesses that go around.  While staying home from work to take care of sick kids is a major cause of lost work time for employees, it’s possible to use many of the above suggestions to help protect yourselves from catching your child’s cold.  Also, limit sloppy kid kisses when possible during the cold and flu season (yes, I know they’re just too cute); children can be pass on the cold virus for between 7 and 10 days after they’ve developed symptoms.

Finally, keep in mind that cold and flu viruses are very contagious.  Most adults are contagious one day PRIOR to developing symptoms and for 5-7 days AFTER become sick.  When possible, take a sick day and stay home from work if you’re the one who would be coughing all over the office.  If you have questions about preventing colds or flus or would like to schedule an appointment to discuss how to improve your health during the winter months, please call our office at 206-588-1227 or visit our website at

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