Coliseum Medical Centers offers tips for staying well this flu season
Macon, GA — Flu season is here, although middle Georgia doesn’t typically begin to the see the peak of the season until January or February. During the height of flu season, many people find themselves surrounded by coughing, sniffling and sneezing coworkers. Close working quarters along with shared kitchens, bathrooms and conference rooms can hasten the spread of the flu and other nasty germs.
Thankfully, protecting yourself in and out of the office doesn’t have to be complicated. Dr. John Shivdat, Medical Director for emergency medicine at Coliseum Medical Centers, breaks down what you need to know.
You know the drill: Get vaccinated!
“First and foremost, the best thing you can do is to get your annual flu shot," Dr. Shivdat says. "It drastically reduces the likelihood that you will get the flu.”
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, before the flu begins affecting most communities. A physician's office, a local health department or a nearby pharmacy are all great places to go if you need the vaccine.
Give your hands a good wash
Regularly washing your hands with soap and water or disinfecting with an alcohol-based sanitizer can help keep you flu-free. But Shivdat says a quick rinse under warm water won't do the trick.
He says, “You should scrub for a minimum of 20 seconds, on the backs of hands, palms, fingers and under the nails.” If soap and water aren't available, use a hand disinfectant with at least 60 percent alcohol until you can find an opportunity to give your hands a proper wash. To properly sanitize your hands, rub the product on all parts of your hands until dry; don't wipe the solution off.
Keep your distance
Droplets containing the flu virus can spread up to six feet through the air, according to the CDC. Shivdat says keeping your distance, especially from sick coworkers, is key. "When someone coughs or sneezes and we breathe in those microscopic droplets, we can get sick,” he says, “so you really have to stay quite a distance from sick coworkers."
If a number of your colleagues are under the weather, propose conducting conferences by phone or online in lieu of cramming into airless boardrooms.
Shivdat adds, “Of course, the most ideal situation is for sick coworkers to stay at home.”
Identify and disinfect germ hotspots at work
The flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so disinfecting heavily-trafficked areas can help prevent the spread of bugs.
"Sometimes we forget to disinfect common surfaces like doorknobs, the kitchen or coffee area, as well as shared phones and bathrooms," Shivdat says.
Wipe down desks, keyboards and the arms of computer chairs, too, even if they don't look dirty. Be sure any electronics can withstand the moisture before cleaning.
Adopt healthy habits at home
Eating a nutritious diet, being physically active, managing stress and getting adequate sleep can help maintain overall health, and they may also boost your immunity.
Even with these risk-reducing precautions, catching the flu is always a possibility. If you do come down with the virus, do your best to avoid contact with others and if possible, remain home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone down. If you're at high risk for complications – a group that includes people with asthma, diabetes and heart disease, pregnant women and young children – contact your physician immediately. Your doctor can prescribe antiviral medication, which could mean the difference between a mild sickness and a serious illness.