Last year we experienced an unprecedented cold and flu season. The CDC reported an early flu season and much higher than expected rates of hospitalizations for the flu. At Doctor On Demand we saw our own record number of cases with five times the number of flu diagnoses from the same time the prior year. It is never to early to start preparing your home and workplace to prevent the spread of this viral and infectious, but also life-threatening illness. These tips can help prevent you and your family from catching the virus, or at the very least allow you to have everything on hand if the cold or flu does strike.
Flu-related viruses can live outside the body for a long period of time, which is why it’s important to disinfect surfaces in your home and workplace. Germs are everywhere and disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This will decrease the spread of germs and subsequently reduce the risk of infection. The CDC suggests daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys.
Wash your hands
The flu is a very contagious disease so it’s important to stop the spread of the related viruses. Washing your hands can help limit the spread by killing some of the viruses and thus decreasing your risk for infection. We recommend to wash them with warm water and soap for 60 seconds or longer as your best way to avoid germs. Make it a habit to wash your hands regularly at work and at home.
Stock up on supplies and over-the-counter medication
It is important to keep a stock of OTC (over-the-counter) medication and supplies, such as kleenex boxes. Since symptoms of the flu have a fast onset, it is good to have these supplies ready both at home and work so you are prepared if you do get sick. If you’re wondering what else to keep at hand, see what’s in our Cold and Flu Preparation Kit.
Eat healthy foods
Keeping nutritious food at your home and workplace and eating balanced meals can strengthen your immune system. With a healthier immune system, you will be better equipped to fight off infections and actually decrease the risk of getting sick. Eating balanced meals and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can strengthen your immune system and help you avoid the risk of catching the flu.
If you’re sick, stay home
If you are feeling ill and think you may have the flu, it is especially important for you to stay home and isolate yourself. This will help you rest and recover while also keeping your coworkers and household safe from exposure to the virus. If you return to work or school within about five days after your symptoms started, there’s a chance you may still be contagious.
At work, know your employer’s leave policy and plan for sick days
At some point, you or someone in your family may get sick, and you will most likely need to take a couple days to leave. Accepting this and knowing your employer’s leave policy makes taking the time off to care for you or a family member’s health less stressful, especially if you are not feeling well.
Getting vaccinated will overwhelmingly decrease the risk of getting the flu this cold and flu season, thus keeping your home and workplace safer environments in general. It’s the best defense against the flu and getting it early can help decreases the chance of you getting sick. According to the CDC, it’s best to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community. The flu vaccine takes at least 2 weeks to become fully effective, so getting the shot early is highly recommended.
Dr. Ian Tong is the Chief Medical Officer at Doctor On Demand and has experience in internal medicine for over 15 years. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor (affiliated) at Stanford University Medical School and has staff privileges at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Before Doctor On Demand, Dr. Tong held multiple medical leadership roles including former Stanford Internal Medicine Chief Resident, and Founder and Medical Director of THRIVE (The Health Resource Initiative for Veterans Everywhere). Dr. Tong earned a medical degree from The University of Chicago-Pritzker. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and completed both his residency and Chief residency at Stanford Hospital and Clinics.