HEALTH

How do you avoid the flu when ev­ery­one around you at work has al­ready caught it? SASHA GON­ZA­LES shares a few preven­tion tips from the ex­perts.

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Cover Reads -

How to avoid get­ting sick when there’s a flu bug go­ing around.

Tips for Stay­ing Bug-free:

hen one of my col­leagues catches the flu, there’s just no way I won’t catch it,” says Linzi Chua, 35, an ac­coun­tant. “No mat­ter how many vitamin C sup­ple­ments I con­sume, the dreaded bug some­how al­ways finds its way to me dur­ing flu sea­son.”

From your desk phone to the wa­ter cooler and pho­to­copy ma­chine, your of­fice is a hot­bed for germs. Charles Gerba, a “germ ex­pert” and pro­fes­sor of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Ari­zona, says that dur­ing the flu sea­son, about one-third of com­monly touched sur­faces in the of­fice will have dis­ease­caus­ing germs.

Cou­pled with poor air cir­cu­la­tion and close prox­im­ity with other em­ploy­ees, it’s lit­tle won­der that even the health­i­est among us be­come vul­ner­a­ble to the flu when it hits the work­place.

The flu virus is of­ten present in the res­pi­ra­tory se­cre­tions of in­fected per­sons, says Dr Linda Hui, chief physi­cian at Matilda Med­i­cal Cen­tre in Hong Kong. The virus can be trans­mit­ted through sneez­ing, cough­ing, talk­ing, and through con­tact with sur­faces that have been con­tam­i­nated with th­ese res­pi­ra­tory droplets.

So how do you pro­tect your­self when ev­ery­one around you is hack­ing away or sneez­ing? Take th­ese tips.

• WIPE DOWN SUR­FACES

Use dis­in­fect­ing wipes once a day on your work sur­faces – in­clud­ing of­fice door han­dles – to kill germs or viruses that may be lurk­ing on them, sug­gests Dr Shiv Gill, a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner from My Health Part­ners Med­i­cal Clinic. Some viruses can live on sur­faces for as long as 72 hours.

• BIN IT

En­sure that waste bins around the of­fice are emp­tied reg­u­larly. Soiled tis­sue pa­per is teem­ing with germs and should not be left ly­ing around on desks. A lid­ded waste bin may also help pre­vent the flu virus from spread­ing, says Dr Hui.

• KEEP THINGS CLEAN IN THE PANTRY

Don’t leave your cof­fee mug in the pantry sink overnight – germs and viruses can linger there. Im­me­di­ately af­ter us­ing your mug, wash it thor­oughly with hot, soapy wa­ter and dry it us­ing a pa­per towel. Wash and dry it again the next morn­ing be­fore us­ing it.

• OPEN UP

If your of­fice does not have cen­tral air-con­di­tion­ing, open the win­dows to im­prove the in­door ven­ti­la­tion and air cir­cu­la­tion, sug­gests As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Lee Yuan Kun from the Depart­ment of Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore. When there is ad­e­quate ven­ti­la­tion, the virus may spread less eas­ily.

• CON­TROL AIR QUAL­ITY

A por­ta­ble air pu­ri­fier may help im­prove the qual­ity of the air in your of­fice by fil­ter­ing out harm­ful cold and flu viruses, says Dr Gill. Be sure to change the wa­ter in it reg­u­larly.

• STEER CLEAR OF SICK COL­LEAGUES

Hope­fully, they will have the sense to stay home and rest, but if they are show­ing early signs of the flu – for ex­am­ple, wa­tery eyes and a runny nose – then it’s best not to get too close to them, says Dr Gill. Try to com­mu­ni­cate with them over the phone or through e-mail, and if you have to see them in per­son, you should both don masks to pre­vent spread­ing and breath­ing in mi­cro­scopic air­borne viruses.

• DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE

Touch­ing your face, es­pe­cially your nose and mouth, is an easy way of get­ting in­fected by germs that you may have picked up when touch­ing a con­tam­i­nated sur­face, says Dr Gill, so keep your hands away from this part of your body.

• WASH YOUR HANDS

It’s a ba­sic hy­giene rule but one that we ne­glect when we’re pressed for time. Al­ways wash your hands thor­oughly (for at least 15 sec­onds) and with soap af­ter us­ing the bath­room, Dr Hui ad­vises. This gets rid of germs that you might have come into con­tact with. Wash your hands too af­ter us­ing shared items such as the pho­to­copy­ing ma­chine, cab­i­nets, re­frig­er­a­tor, mi­crowave and wa­ter cooler.

• GET A SHOT

Dr Hui sug­gests get­ting a flu vac­cine as a pre­ven­tive mea­sure. But dis­cuss this with your health-care prac­ti­tioner first, be­cause it may not be the best so­lu­tion for you.

Dr Gill ex­plains that a vac­cine is ap­pro­pri­ate for those un­der five or over 60 years old, peo­ple trav­el­ling to a place where there is a flu out­break, women who are preg­nant, health-care work­ers, and peo­ple who are al­ready in poor health. And get­ting a shot doesn’t guar­an­tee that you won’t catch a flu or cold virus.

• PUT YOUR HEALTH FIRST

When your im­mune sys­tem is strong, it is bet­ter able to re­sist vi­ral in­fec­tions. Boost your im­mu­nity by mak­ing sure you are in the best pos­si­ble health, says Dr Gill. That means eat­ing a bal­anced diet that in­cludes vitamin- and min­eral-rich foods, and get­ting reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and suf­fi­cient sleep.

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