While you may be capable of functioning at work despite having colds and flu, working while suffering from these conditions puts your colleagues and customers at risk of catching the same illness. This is especially true when your workplace doesn’t have proper hygiene protocols to prevent the spread of germs.
Since prevention is the best course of action for stopping coughs and colds, it imperative that you understand how flu and cold viruses spread. In this article, you will learn about protecting yourself from colds and flu and what you can do to avoid spreading the diseases if you are the one carrying them.
Contracting Colds and Flu: How Does it Happen?
Viruses that cause colds and flu are most easily passed on right after infection, even if the patients who are sick don’t show typical symptoms (such as incessant coughing or a clogged nose) during the earliest stages of the condition. This means that some people may be unaware that they are ill, and that could lead them to spread the virus to others unknowingly.
Patients with influenza – more commonly referred to as “flu” – are contagious 24 hours before the signs appear, and continue to be so for as long as seven days. Those suffering from common colds, on the other hand, are most contagious during the first two or three days from the onset of infection, but they may still pass the illness to others during an entire week.
Because of this, it can be challenging to prevent the spread of such viruses in the workplace. Be it from colleagues and loved ones who visit the office, or people with whom you come in contact (e.g., hospital patients for medical personnel), viruses can spread quickly in an enclosed indoor environment. This is because cold and flu viruses stick to the surfaces that infected people touch and can become airborne through sneezing and coughing.
3 Ways to Prevent the Spread of Colds and Flu in the Workplace
The best way to prevent the spread of viruses that cause colds and flu is for the infected personnel to take sick days off from work. However, since there are instances when people are unaware that they are infected, you may need to find other ways to protect yourself and your colleagues from such illnesses.
1. Always Practice Cleanliness
Since cold and flu viruses can be transmitted via physical contact, it is imperative that you keep practicing good hygiene habits to avoid contracting the disease. Regular hand washing not only prevents you from getting the virus, but also keeps you from becoming a medium for the germs to spread throughout the workplace.
If it is not possible to wash using soap and water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using alcohol-based sanitizers or hand rubs with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol content. They also strongly advise making a habit of hand washing during specific times, specifically:
- After coming into contact with garbage
- After petting, feeding, or cleaning animals
- After handling pet treats and food
- After using the toilet
- After cleaning up a child who used the toilet, or changing diapers
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- Before and after caring for a person who has been sick
- Before and after treating wounds or cuts
- Before eating food
- Before, during, and after cooking and preparing food
2. Use Colds and Flu Prevention Equipment in the Workplace
Every workplace should have a complete range of hygiene products available to prevent the spread of germs that could cause diseases such as colds and flu. If your employer has not provided such supplies, ask them to provide the basics which, at the very least, should include soap, disinfectant gels, wipes, tissues, and paper towels.
3. Be Wary of Signs of Colds and Flu
Although it isn’t easy to determine who has contracted colds and flu during its onset, being aware of the signs is still a good way to protect yourself from getting sick in the workplace.
If you find a co-worker with the initial signs of coughs and colds, ask them to talk to someone about their condition before coming to work. If you suspect that a co-worker is ill, make sure to take precautionary measures like practicing good hygiene and wearing protective surgical masks while in the office.
Keep the Workplace Virus-Free
Although colds and flu are not considered serious illnesses, they can still prevent you from performing your best at work. If you feel like you are coming down with the flu or may be suffering from common colds, do yourself and your co-workers a favor by staying home, resting, and recovering. This will also help you get back on your feet sooner.