Cold and flu season can seem like a battleground. Between sick kids, co-workers and friends, you're bound to pick up some kind of bug by the time spring rolls around. Of course, getting the flu vaccine and practicing good hygiene can prevent illness, but it is possible to get hit with a bug despite your best efforts to prevent it from happening. However, if you do get sick, you have the power to stop the illness from spreading once you've caught it! Here's how to keep your germs to yourself when you find yourself down for the count.|
Cover Your Cough
It's very easy to transmit disease through the airborne particles you expel when coughing and sneezing. Be sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue to avoid spraying unsuspecting passersby. Alternatively, sneeze into the crook of your elbow to avoid spreading germs to everything you touch with your hands.
Then, Wash Your Hands
One of the best ways to avoid spreading germs is to wash your hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing into them. When you wash your hands, work soap into a lather and scrub in warm water for about 20 seconds (you should be able to sing "Happy Birthday" twice).
Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose and Mouth
When you are carrying a cold or flu virus and touch the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose and mouth, anything else you touch after that will then carry the virus, potentially facilitating the spread of disease to others. Avoid touching your face if at all possible, and again, wash your hands well after if you do.
Rest Up at Home
The flu virus is contagious one day before symptoms begin and can remain contagious five to seven days after you fall ill. You might be busy at work, but if you're sick, do whatever you can to stay away from the office and other public places during this window. Not only will you be miserable and unproductive if you work while sick, but you could potentially spread illness to your other co-workers. If you absolutely must attend work or school, be sure to sanitize your area frequently and avoid contact with others.
Be Smart about Food Safety
Certain viruses can spread through food particles, so have someone else handle the cooking in your household while you're ill if at all possible. Additionally, wash your hands before and after eating.
Leave a Clean Path
Make sure you wash your hands before touching any surface that many other people touch, like doorknobs, phones and handrails. At home, disinfect surfaces you touch throughout the day to avoid spreading the virus to family members.
Throw Away Used Tissues
Don't let your used tissues pile up on your desk or beside your bed—they're a breeding ground for germs! Throw them away directly after use to avoid spreading the "love" to others.
Keeping your sickness to yourself might seem futile if you live and work in small spaces with others, but it can be done! Just be mindful of your actions while you're sick and take the above precautions. Get well soon!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Stopping the Spread of Germs at Home, Work & School," www.cdc.gov, accessed on October 9, 2013.
New York State Department of Health, ''This is How Germs Spread… It's Sickening!'' www.health.ny.gov, accessed on October 9, 2013.
Washington State Department of Health, ''Germs: Prevent Their Spread,'' www.doh.wa.gov, accessed on October 9, 2013.