Fun fact: Did you know the average office desk contains 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat? During any given workday, you and your coworkers touch numerous surfaces – when you open a door, pick up the phone, pour a cup of coffee, etc. While germs are probably the last thing on your mind during a busy workday, they can knock you off your feet this time of year.
Flu season is well on its way, and if you haven’t learned the hard way, it can spread like wildfire within the workplace. The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent yourself from getting sick and from spreading the flu to your fellow coworkers. The virus is spread three ways:
- By direct contact with infected individuals (like shaking hands with someone who recently coughed into theirs).
- By contact with contaminated objects (such as door handles, telephones, towels and silverware).
- By contact with the airborne droplet spray of respiratory fluid coming from coughs and sneezes (which can reach up to 6 feet away).
Touching your nose, mouth or eyes after contact with the contaminated virus will likely infect you too! A flu shot is your body’s first line of defense to fight the virus so you hopefully won’t have to miss a day of work or spread the illness to others.
A flu vaccine injects a dead version of the three most common strains of flu into your system, so you can develop antibodies that can protect against infection to the viruses in the vaccine. There are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The composition of the U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. And no, you can’t get the flu from a flu shot.
Here are a few other best practices to avoid catching or spreading the flu during the winter months:
- Washing your hands often and thoroughly for 20 seconds in warm running water is considered the most important thing you can do to avoid catching and spreading germs. Be sure to wash your hands before and after eating, after using the restroom, and after sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Time to kick that nail-biting habit once and for all – which can introduce germs into your system.
- Suspect one of your coworkers is ill? Stay at least six feet away from them. Cover your nose and mouth if someone sneezes or coughs near you and avoid shaking hands with others.
- Eat your fruits and veggies! Lead a healthy lifestyle to boost your immune system, including getting all your nutrients (especially vitamin C), drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of sleep, exercising and minimizing your stress.
- If you’re sick, stay at home. You won’t be productive at work when you don’t feel good and increased stress will prolong your illness. Stay in bed, drink plenty of fluids and take any necessary medication as your body fights it off. Your whole office will appreciate it!
The EFR Employee Assistance Program promotes overall health and wellness. For more information on how you can utilize your EAP, contact your HR manager or employer today!