The kids are back to school, marking the beginning of flu season on the playground and in the office. The advent of the H1N1 (swine) flu last year has increased most people’s awareness (and fear) of the influenza virus aka the flu. Viruses are spread person-to-person through airborne contact (coughs and sneezes) and physical contact (close contact and/or touching infected items and then touching your face). Here are some tips and resources to keep you and your workplace healthier this flu season.
- Wash your hands often. Always wash before eating and after sneezing, coughing, going to the restroom, or shaking hands. Most people do not wash their hands correctly. Here’s how: Wet hands. Use soap and lather for 15 seconds. Rinse. Towel or air dry hands. Use towel to turn off faucet. If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethylalcohol (that’s what kills the germs), or anti-microbial towelettes.
- Cover your mouth: if you sneeze or cough, do so in a tissue or into your elbow or shirtsleeve. This prevents germs from spreading to other people.
- Avoid touching your face: your nose, mouth, and eyes are easy entry-points for viruses to enter your body from your hands. Try not to touch them and make sure you always wash your hands before you do.
- Clean surface areas: wipe down conference tables and airplane armrests and trays with disinfecting wipes before use.
- Flu vaccine: More than 30,000 people still die in the United States each year from the seasonal flu. Get vaccinated by your doctor or at a local pharmacy such as Walgreen’s, CVS pharmacies, Target, or Safeway.
Check their websites for dates of flu shot clinics. Influenza vaccines do contain the preservative thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury.
While thimerosal has been used in most vaccines since the 1930s, its use in childhood vaccines was discontinued in 1999. If you are concerned about thimerosal, you can learn more about it on the CDC website. There are limited supplies of influenza vaccine available without thimerosal. Contact your physician to see if it is available.
- Stay Home: if you get sick, stay home until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours. Flu symptoms vary but may include fever, cough, chills, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue. Don’t get everybody at work sick too. Drinks lots of fluids and rest.
- Pia Hinckle