So you made it through the holiday season without feeling ill.
You're safe now, right?
The flu season, including H1N1 (swine flu), actually peaks in February and March, and can last until May.
Why should you care? In November, almost 47 million cases of H1N1 were reported with more than 200,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 deaths. (To find your flu risk potential, use this cold and flu calculator from the Mayo Clinic.)
Employers lose an estimated $10 billion per year on lost productivity alone, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Help employees protect themselves from the flu with the following tips:
- Get a flu shot. A yearly flu vaccine is an important step in protecting against the flu. Be aware that there are two different types of vaccines: One for the seasonal flu, and one for H1N1, which may be limited in your area. People with chronic health conditions, seniors, pregnant women, and children are encouraged to get both.
- Watch your mouth! When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or do so into your elbow region to avoid contaminating your hands that can spread germs easily.
- Wash hands frequently. Using warm or hot water, sing the "happy birthday" song to ensure you're getting rid of any potentially harmful germs on your hands. If you cannot wash your hands, use an alcohol-based antibacterial hand rub.
- Don't touch your face. As mentioned before, your hands carry germs that may cause the flu so keep fingers away from eyes, mouth, and nose, and if you do touch your face, wash your hands before and after.
- Keep your distance. If your best friend, spouse, or co-worker is showing signs of being ill, keep at least an arm's-length away. Liquid droplets from an infected person can travel as far as three feet through the air.
- Catch some zzz's. Getting the appropriate seven to eight hours of sleep a night can help your body replenish and fight any threatening germs.
- Eat this: Dark leafy veggies like spinach have vitamins and antioxidants that help boost the immune system.
- Go to the spa. No kidding: Studies show that people who take saunas up to twice a week get half as many colds as people who don't. Research also suggests that the hot air may kill flu viruses.
- Clean your office space. Germs carrying the flu live longer on hard surfaces. Wipe down keyboards and phone surfaces at least once a week.
- Get moving. Exercising three or four days a week for at least 30 minutes a day can help boost your body's natural ability to fight off infection and the flu.