You arrive at the office, and Susan greets you with a sniffle. Her desk is strewn with cold medicine. Tissues overflow from her wastebasket. You hurry to your desk, feeling the cough build in your own throat, running to escape the inevitable.
It's every germophobe's worst nightmare, and it's already here: flu season. While it can be tough to avoid getting sick, there are a few things you can do to lessen your chances of catching the bug. Here, we cover a few of those, as well as how to ease the pain if the flu finds you. With our help, you can make it through flu season and live to tell the tale.
How to prevent the flu
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. According to the CDC, the best way to avoid getting the flu is to get vaccinated. There are multiple varieties of the flu shot to suit each person's needs, so there's no excuse for not getting it. But if you don't, here are some other ways to stay healthy this season.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick. This is a no-brainer, but it is worth repeating. Don't touch sick people, and don't let them breathe on you.
- Wash your hands. If you must be in an environment where people are sick, wash your hands and don't touch your face until you've done so.
- Clean everything. Break out the disinfectant and hand sanitizer. If you must touch something a sick person has touched, sanitize it first. This is good practice for any other day at work, too.
- Keep your hands to yourself. Whenever possible, avoid touching things in communal areas. That means staircase railings, doorknobs and the microwave in the break room. If you must, wear gloves or use a paper towel to avoid direct contact with possibly contaminated surfaces.
What to do when you have the flu
After all of those precautions, Susan still got you sick. Now what? Here are some tips to soothe your symptoms and stop other people from getting sick, too.
- See your doctor about antiviral drugs for the flu. If you were vaccinated and still got sick, antiviral drugs are your next best option. These require a prescription, but it's worth a visit to your doctor so you can get back on your feet again.
- Stay home from work. While many workplaces frown on taking sick days, your boss would rather have you stay home for a few days than have the entire office call in sick at once.
- Wear a face mask. The CDC recommends wearing a face mask if you must go out to prevent the spread of airborne germs.
- Get plenty of rest. The flu will drain your energy fast. Resting allows your body to fight off the infection on its own.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Pedialyte or sports drinks can help you recover electrolytes lost due to vomiting or diarrhea.
- Take OTC medication to feel better fast. Take ibuprofen for muscle aches and pseudoephedrine for congestion. If you can work from home, these will ease the pain long enough so you don't miss too much while you're out.