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A drawing of a person sneezing.

Flu season office etiquette

By Alan Olson

From Brief, November 17, 2004

Hacking cough? Aching muscles? High fever? Sidelong glances from your coworkers?

Do yourself and your colleagues a favor--stay at home! You may have the flu! Allow your body to fight the virus and become well again. Since your body is working hard to become well again, your energy and concentration is less likely to be at its peak. This will affect your productivity. Furthermore, you put your colleagues at risk of becoming ill because the surfaces you touch (desks, computers, phones, etc.) can remain contaminated for up to two hours after you handle them. So, instead of one person being out of the office for one day, three more may easily become infected and be out of the office for a few days. "And he infected two people, and she infected three, and so on, and so on..." The issue of one person's productivity has now turned into an entire office issue!

Is it a cold or the flu?"

See the chart on page 115 of your new Mayo Clinic Guide to Self-Care.

Flu symptoms
* high fever
* headache
* extreme tiredness
* cough
* sore throat
* runny or stuffy nose
* muscle aches

Flu symptoms more common among children
* nausea
* vomiting
* diarrhea

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Go to the CDC Web site for more information about symptoms of flu and what you can do to prevent and treat it.

Wash your hands

In addition to staying home, there are easy, non-vaccination things you can do to protect yourself and others from catching the flu. One key to avoiding the flu is the washing of the hands. In fact, this is one of the most important things you can do. Frequently washing your hands dislodges and washes away germs that you've picked up from other people or contaminated surfaces. Hand-washing may even prevent other serious diseases--like hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea--if made a habit.

A boiled-down primer on how to wash your hands:

Tissues, sleeves, pens, and more

While washing your hands is one manner of prevention, here are some other tips to protect yourself and your coworkers from the flu.

If you do become ill, here are steps you can take for treatment. Get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, avoid using alcohol and tobacco, and remember that over-the-counter medications help to relieve symptoms of the flu, not cure them. And did we say, "Stay home from work"?

A shotless flu clinic

In a novel approach to the lack of flu vaccine on the Twin Cities campus, Boynton Health Service is planning a "shotless flu clinic." Staff and nursing and pharmacy students are assembling 20,000 flu kits, including hand sanitizers, cough drops, tea bags, facial tissues, chicken soup, and prevention messages. Watch for a release date sometime after Thanksgiving, when you can stop by Boynton during clinic hours to pick one up.

Keep yourself healthy. Preventive measures might save you some suffering and a little pin money by avoiding a trip to the doctor. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Alan Olson is a communications project manager in the Office of Human Resources.

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