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Practices to avoid the spread of flu at work

During flu season, we all need to be mindful of ways we can minimise the spread of infection. It’s not only to protect not only ourselves and our families but other people in the community, including those who are particularly vulnerable to flu complications like children, pregnant women and older people.

The flu spreads through respiratory droplets that become airborne when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or even breathes, as well as through touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus. Having large groups of people together is one of the ways that the flu can spread quickly through the community - that’s why you often see flu breakouts in nursing homes, schools, and workplaces.

In fact, the flu virus can spread in a matter of hours. A study by the University of Arizona found that when someone comes to work sick, about half of the commonly touched surfaces in the office will be infected with the virus by lunchtime. Yuck!

Try these tips to avoid spreading the flu at your workplace.

Stay home when you’re sick

The importance of staying home when you’re sick cannot be overstated - especially if you think that you have the flu. Every workplace should encourage their employees to stay home and rest when they are sick, and put in place practices that make this possible. This might include having the option to phone into important meetings, having multiple people working across a project, or having a project management system where others can see the progress of a task or project.

You might think that going into work for an important meeting is a good idea, but consider that you are putting every other person in that meeting at risk of infection, simply by being in the same room.

You can collect a carer’s certificate or workplace leave certificate from your local Capital Chemist for short-term and self-limiting conditions that typically fall into the pharmacist’s normal scope of practice. You don’t even need to book an appointment - although there may be a short wait and you’ll need to pay a fee. Conditions apply - find out more.

Wash your hands properly

It’s not just respiratory droplets in the air that spread infection, but contaminated surfaces. Think for a moment about how many surfaces you touch in a day, including keyboards, buttons, phones, taps, tabletops, and handles on doors, microwaves, and fridges. If you only wash your hands a couple of times throughout the day, you’re exposing yourself to an enormous amount of germs and bacteria.

Be sure to wash your hands with soap after touching your face, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, going to the toilet, and before eating - as well as any other opportunities during the day. It’s also a good idea to have an anti-bacterial hand sanitizing gel on hand for convenience.

Keep your workplace clean and sanitized

In the same way, think about how often a single surface in the workplace is touched through the day - particularly the areas mentioned above. Flu viruses can last up to 24 hours on surfaces, so it’s essential to regularly clean and disinfect these areas.

This applies not only to common areas in the workplace but also individual working areas. Be sure to have cleaning supplies available to all employees so that they can clean up after themselves and disinfect their workspace including their keyboard and desk surface. This is especially important if your office uses hot desking or has multiple people working in one workspace throughout the day.

Stay informed

Know the symptoms of the flu so you can be aware of your own health and avoid others who may have the flu. These include:

● Fever or chills

● Aches in the muscles and/or joints

● Fatigue

● Nausea

● Coughing

● Sore throat

● Headache

It’s also a good idea to educate yourself and your colleagues of preventative measures you can take.

Common cold vs influenza

A cold is unpleasant but nowhere near as severe as influenza. Influenza will often present with extreme fatigue, muscle pain, fever and cough and the patient is very sick. The concept of “soldiering on” for a patient with influenza is almost impossible because they are so ill. If you suspect influenza (as opposed to a common cold) consult your doctor; there are prescription medications that can reduce the severity and duration of influenza.

Get the flu vaccine

Capital Chemist offers flu vaccinations in-store, so it’s easy to get yourself and your family vaccinated. Geographic and age restrictions apply, so contact your local participating Capital Chemist today

You may also be interested in the following:

Five ways to keep your workplace healthy this flu season
Why you should stay home if you have the flu
Leave certificates at Capital Chemist

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Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.