December 19, 2014
Fight The Flu with These Easy Steps
Emphasize healthy habits and lifestyles to gear up for the flu season.
It is considered the silent predator that starts impacting absenteeism, company productivity and even overall office morale about this time of year: The flu—that pesky, contagious virus that can become airborne through coughs and sneezes. Chances are many employees in your company have symptoms, have had the flu already or will become sick by the end of the season.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can’t predict the severity of the flu season ahead because myriad factors, one thing is certain: Flu will spread throughout schools, businesses and other places with dense concentrations of people.
Use this checklist to help stay ahead of the seasonal flu storm by minimizing its sometimes-slow, sometimes-swift effects in the office.
- Encourage employees to get a flu shot. Better yet, subsidize those shots—which usually helps prevent the flu. Help employees understand that having their family vaccinated—children six months and older can receive the shot—will help curtail its occurrence. People in high-risk groups including adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and asthma, and those with compromised immune systems due to cancer are also considered at-risk and should consider a flu shot.
- Vaccine side effects are usually minimal. Fifteen percent of those receiving the shot report soreness or redness at the shot site. People with severe egg allergies or Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare neurologic condition, should not have a flu shot. Always recommend that employees consult with their physician prior to receiving the shot.
- Practice good hand hygiene. Since the flu enters the body through the mouth or nose, post signs reminding employees to cover their mouths before sneezing and coughing and to frequently wash hands. Consider providing individual bottles of hand sanitizer in offices or the break room.
- Educate employees on how the flu spreads. Emphasize that the virus can become airborne and spread rapidly to people in close proximity through coughing and sneezing.
- Recognize symptoms. While flu symptoms can mimic a cold, the onset is typically more sudden and includes physical ailments such as severe muscle aches, chills and fever, extreme fatigue, sore throat, headache and cough.
- Take simple precautions when the flu hits. Mild flu symptoms can quickly escalate and become severe, so people with the flu should protect themselves, their families and co-workers and others by avoiding close contact and staying home from work or school until fever-free for at least 24 hours.
- Increase immunity during flu season. Guard against other viruses typical during the fall and winter months. Get plenty of rest, drink fluids and practice good nutrition.
Monitor the 2014-2015 flu season by consulting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website: cdc.gov/flu or Google’s Flu Trend site: http://www.google.org/flutrends. Get up-to-date information and be proactive for the ill effects the virus can have on your company’s productivity.
This article was researched and written by health and workplace wellness writer Kimberly Winter Stern, who writes health-related content for a national healthcare system, major daily newspapers, and local and regional magazines, as well as culinary stories for The Kansas City Star. She is also the host of a food-related radio show.