Cold and Flu Prevention in the Office

Hand Washing

It’s that time of year. Not only are we cooped up inside because the weather is miserable outside, but we simply can’t seem to avoid getting sick. With a mild winter like the one we are having in Ontario this season, cold bacteria and flu viruses manage to survive much easier since they are not being frozen and killed. Here we discuss how to keep your immune system humming, how to maintain an office that prevents spreading germs, what to do if you suspect you might be under the weather, and what to do if you do get sick.  

Keeping Your Immune System Strong as a Shark 

It’s true, sharks have one of the most complex immune systems in the animals kingdom. This means they hardly, if ever, get sick. There is your fun fact for the day. Unfortunately for us humans, we aren’t so lucky. We heavily rely on our immune system to help our body fend off bacteria and viruses every second. The device that you are reading this blog on is likely one of the dirtiest things you will touch all day. Think about it; if you are on your cellphone reading this, your hands are always all over your phone, people talk over your phone, it’s frequently dropped or left places that are very unclean, and then we all end up putting it up against our face to take a call. If you are on a computer, when was the last time you cleaned that keyboard or mouse? Does anyone have some extra disinfecting wipes? Bleh.  

Being aware of what you touch and what enters your body is one of the best defenses you have against catching a bug. Another great thing you can do is support your immune system. Especially this time of year where constantly changing weather, large congregations of people indoors, dry air, and stress are common, our immune systems can use a bit of help keeping up with germs that creep into our lives. Here are some very simple things you can do help boost your immune system: 

  • Sleep. Yes, just sleep. Let your body get a good night’s sleep (7-8 hours average), it will help your immune system function properly. 
  • Exercise. A healthy body in every aspect helps to keep your immune system happy. 
  • Relax. Stress can cause your immune system to blow a tire and a mechanic can’t get to you if you remain stressed.  
  • Eat well. Observe your diet, eat lots of fruit and veggies. They contain many vitamins and minerals that your immune system uses. 
  • Garlic. Yum. Eat lots of garlic. Raw, cooked, however you like, the allicin in garlic does a great job of fighting off those pesky germs.
  • Get your vitamins. Whether you consume them via supplements, or in the food you eat, be sure to have lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin B Complexes, Zinc, Echinacea, and Ginseng. 
  • Personal Hygiene. Wash your hands, often. Sanitize your hands and workstation. Avoid touching your face. Even if you aren’t touching your mouth or picking your nose, once germs are on your face it is very easy for them to enter your body.  

Keeping the Office Healthy  

So, what does all of this mean for the office? Well, it is quite simple.  

Clean. The bathroom is one of the cleanest places in the office. The dirtiest? Door handles, printers/copiers and your workstation. Get some disinfecting wipes and wipe everything down at least once a day. Set a calendar event, make it a team building exercise, get creative with it. 

Wash your hands. After you use the bathroom, of course. But do you wash your hands after you shake someone’s hand, what about before you eat, or after you cough or sneeze? These are the most critical times to wash up. If you can’t get to a sink that has some soap, keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer near you and use it often. Have your office move to the fist bump, at least until things warm up if fist bumping your boss every morning becomes too awkward.  

Everyone says they wash their hands, but very few people know how to do it properly. Washing your hands should not be a quick event. Don’t spend hours over the sink scrubbing in like you are a surgeon, but follow these tips: 

  • Use warm water. Cold water doesn’t let the soap do its job properly. 
  • Use soap, and lots of it.  
  • Lather all over your hands. This includes between your fingers, under your fingernails, and the back of your hands.
  • Lather for a minimum of 20 seconds, ideally for about a minute. Sing the whole of happy birthday in your head (or out loud) and you will probably be good. 
  • Rinse off the soap while still lathering until all the soap is off your hands. 
  • Dry your hands with a paper towel or blow dryer. 
  • Turn off the taps with the paper towel to not touch the handle and use the same paper towel to open the bathroom door to exit.  
  • Walk out feeling clean as a whistle.  

Sick Lady

Your Body Can Put Up A Fight but Won’t Always Win 

The truth is we can try all we want to help our immune system flourish, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. We should always try to do what we can to keep healthy but as bacteria evolves and changes our bodies can’t always keep up. You know when you get that tired achy feeling in your body? It usually means our immune system is in overdrive trying to fight off a bug. If you begin to feel this way, it’s time to take the tips from earlier very seriously. This is a critical make or break period, if you don’t beat the bug, you are likely going to end up with a full-blown cold, infection or flu.  

If that happens, getting better should be your number one priority. Get plenty of rest, and don’t be a hero. Don’t go to work. Stay at home and away from others. When you are sick you are highly contagious, and you don’t want to risk spreading that to your coworkers. Additionally, your immune system is compromised, so going out can increase your risk of catching something else or making it worse. The exception here, of course, being going to see a doctor. Once you are all better, everyone at the office will be happy to see you, I promise (except maybe Chad in accounting).  

If we all do our part, we can work towards keeping everyone healthy and happy this season. Talk to your boss or manager about what you can do in the office, and as a team to fight the cold and flu this year.  

 Sources: 

https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/preventing-colds-and-flu-at-the-office 

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-avoid-the-office-cold-2013-10 

https://www.wsps.ca/Information-Resources/Topics/Cold-and-Flu-Season.aspx 

https://healthengine.com.au/info/cold-and-flu-prevention-at-work 

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/coldflu.htm 

https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html