It’s been very distressing to read so many stories of people being struck with fatal bouts of the flu, especially when there’s so much we can do to prevent spreading viruses. It’s important to not panic — most people who come down with the flu will recover after a few days — but observing flu etiquette during the winter will limit exposure and keep us all healthier. Be considerate!
Wash your hands frequently. It’s easy to pick up germs, especially if you work in a busy office or have schoolchildren. Make it a point to wash your hands throughout the day, especially after shaking someone’s hand, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth to prevent an infection spreading. Don’t hang onto crumpled tissues that have been used, and consider keeping a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse or on your desk. Anti-bacterial wipes are also handy for wiping down your desk or touching surfaces that get a lot of shared contact (such as doorknobs, toilet handles, the microwave in the office kitchen).
Stay home if you’re sick. We often feel guilty about taking sick days, but trust me: Your boss would rather one person miss a couple of days than the whole department come down with the flu. If you don’t have a full-blown cold but feel one coming on, ask your boss if you can work from home. The same goes for social engagements. Hitting up a party or going on a date when you’re sick is an easy way to spread germs. If you absolutely must attend something, politely decline hugs or kisses and explain that you’re feeling ill.
Get a flu shot. Flu shots aren’t 100% effective, and seem to be less powerful this flu season, but medical professionals still recommend getting them. Speak to your doctor, who can address any concerns you may have about vaccinations.
Take extra care around the elderly, small children, and pregnant women. If you’re sick, it’s very careless to be around those with weaker immune systems; they could easily get sick, and it may be harder for them to recover. A pregnant woman I know has asked her immediate family members to get flu shots and whooping cough vaccinations before visiting her baby, which I totally understand. One sister-in-law balked, but the mother-to-be is standing firm; you have to do what you can to prevent illness.
Seek medical attention. This seems obvious, but plenty of people try to self-medicate, either because a doctor’s visit is cost-prohibitive or because they don’t take their illness seriously. But it really is crucial to get medical advice if your symptoms aren’t abating.
Take care of those who are sick. Some people push themselves to the limit. If you see an ill coworker or friend struggling, urge them to see a doctor and get some rest. You don’t have to play nursemaid, but picking up a prescription, delivering a hot meal, or watching their children — all while taking precautions to not get sick yourself — can make a big difference.