How to cope with flu in the workplace: Prevention and Treatment
Flu season can be a tough time for workplaces where they often become a breeding ground for germs. One American study found that the flu virus can spread throughout the office in a matter of hours stating that when someone comes into work sick, about half of the commonly touched surfaces in the office will become infected by lunchtime. Surprisingly the quickest way the virus is passed around is when people touch and infect objects and surfaces that are commonly used and regularly touched by others. These include doorknobs and handles, desks, kettles and coffee pots, printers and copy machines, microwaves and toasters. The flu virus can last up to 24 hours on surfaces, and someone can easily catch it by touching an infected area and then touching their face or mouth.
The flu spreads rapidly around workplaces, where a lot of people are in one confined and shared space. Flu season in the UK starts around October/November and peaks from December through till March. It often effects thousands of people every year, and costs UK businesses huge amounts in absenteeism and presenteeism. There is no way to guarantee complete protection from the flu, but below we have listed some useful steps and tips to help lower the risk. This will help reduce the spread of flu in your workplace.
The best step is always prevention. To avoid presenteeism and absenteeism employees should prevent themselves catching the virus in the first place. This means they will not be a risk to others, and you can greatly reduce the chances of a flu breakout in your workplace.
- Get the flu vaccine. This is the most effective way to protect yourself and other employees against flu and is best defence we have against the virus. Kays Medical can provide flu vaccines to your workplace, to ensure all your staff are vaccinated and protected in the best way possible.
- Wash your hands regularly. Use hot soapy water to wash your hands for at least 30 seconds ensuring you wash your palms, the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, your fingernails and even your wrists. Do this regularly, especially after touching something which is regularly touched by many people. Use paper towels to dry your hands. If you can’t always get to a sink to wash your hands using a hand sanitizer gel is a great alternative.
- Clean and disinfect. Repeatedly wipe down items that are regularly used like your keyboard, mouse, phone and desk top. Also ensure regularly touched communal objects like doorknobs, kettles and the printer/copier are kept clean and disinfected. Keep anti-bacterial wipes on your desk and in communal areas.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Germs are most easily spread when someone touches an infected area or person and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.
- Look after your immune system. The more run down you are the more likely you will be to develop the flu. Eat healthy foods, keep fit and get a good night’s sleep.
- Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Use a tissue when coughing and sneezing to cover your mouth and nose, this helps prevent you passing on germs to others. Throw the tissue away once used and then wash your hands. Do not shake people’s hands or touch commonly used items unless your hands are completely clean.
If you do end up developing the flu, there are a few things you can do to help ease your symptoms and help you recover faster.
- Stay at home. If you are feeling ill and run-down stay home. You are most infectious in the first three days after you catch the virus so this will prevent you spreading your germs to others. The best way to recover is to rest and relax, and you can not do this at work.
- Rest. As mentioned above, when you get the flu the best thing you can do is rest. Over exerting yourself can make you feel worse and prolong your symptoms.
- Drink lots of fluids. You need to keep your body hydrated, drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Take over-the-counter medications. There are plenty of medications you can buy that can help relieve the symptoms of the flu. Cold and flu tablets that contain paracetamol and phenylephrine can help relieve aches, pains and congestion whilst reducing your fever. Tablets with caffeine are also great for the day time as they can relieve your fatigue and drowsiness. Take cough syrup to help relieve coughs and take lozenges to soothe a sore throat.
- See a doctor. Most symptoms typically subside within one week. If your flu symptoms worsen, you have trouble breathing or shortness of breath, experience vomiting, dizziness or pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen you should see a doctor.
How can Kays Medical help?
Kays Medical can provide workplace vaccinations for all your employees. The flu vaccination is the best line of defence we have against the flu virus, and the most effective way of ensuring your staff do not get sick. It is important to be proactive with a flu prevention strategy as early as September/October to help reduce the spread of flu in your workplace. Contact us to pre-order flu vaccines and arrange for a member of our team to visit your site to administer the vaccines to your workforce. If you do catch the flu, Kays Medical also have a range of flu medications which can help relieve your symptoms.