It’s the season of runny noses and coughs. Our friends at Nova Medical Centers have put together cold and flu tips we want to share with you.
Cold and flu prevention
Cold and flu spread more easily in the cold winter months because they thrive in colder, less humid environments. More people become infected with colds and flus in winter. At this time, you have a higher risk of contracting colds and flus at work, because it is more likely your colleagues will catch colds and flus which they can pass on at work. That means you’re more likely to need time off work in winter to recover from a cold or flu, and this may interfere with work deadlines and your productivity at work.
Whether you work in an office, healthcare facility or other workplace, you are at risk of contracting a virus at work, from your colleagues or people who visit your workplace. While cold and flu viruses spread rapidly in indoor environments like offices, they can also spread in outdoor work environments, when they become airborne or contaminate a surface that many people touch, like the handle of a tool.
How do cold and flu spread?
Cold and flu viruses are highly contagious and the contagious period begins immediately after infection. In the early stage of infection, a person with a cold or flu does not have symptoms like blocked nose or coughing. Thus they are unaware that they are sick and may infect others unknowingly. Influenza is typically contagious for 24 hours before symptoms appear, and continues to be contagious for up to seven days. Common colds are typically most contagious for the initial 2-3 days of infection but may be passed on to others up to a week later.
People who go to work while they are infected with cold and flu may expose their colleagues and workplace visitors to their virus, for example if they cough or sneeze at work.
Because it is not always possible to identify people who have a cold or flu and/or keep them away from the workplace, effective cold and flu prevention at work requires more than simply avoiding those known to be infected.
Stopping the spread of cold and flu viruses at work
Avoiding exposure to cold and flu viruses is the basis of prevention, and avoiding people who have a cold or flu is one important way to avoid exposure. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, their cold or influenza virus becomes airborne and survives for approximately one hour in the air. If another person inhales the air carrying the cold or flu droplets, they can catch the virus.
Hygiene measures to prevent cold and flu transmission in the workplace:
- Stay away from work if you have cold and flu
- Equip the workplace for cold and flu prevention
- Be prepared to take time off when cold or flu hit
- Keep visitors with cold and flu away from workplaces
General hygiene measures to prevent cold and flu transmission in life:
1) Hand washing
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose;
- Before touching your face;
- After touching contaminated objects such as tissues;
- After cleaning surfaces which may be contaminated;
- After shaking hands with someone known or suspected to be infected.
2) Covering mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing
- Practicing good cough and sneeze etiquette – covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing – reduces the likelihood of cold and flu viruses becoming airborne and/or contaminating surfaces and other objects in the work environment.
3) Avoid touching mouths, noses and eyes
- Cold and flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to eight hours and on a person’s hands for approximately five minutes after they touch a contaminated surface such as a hand or desktop.
4) Clean surfaces and equipment
- Shared surfaces and equipment in the workplace should be cleaned regularly to ensure cold and flu viruses are removed.