Being back out in the world is great.
Seeing our friends, making plans, even going back to the office isn’t all bad.
However, this new-found freedom has coincided with winter bug season – which means colds, flu, sniffles and sneezes are everywhere. And workplaces are a hotspot for germs.
We all want to avoid the so-called ‘super cold’ that has been going around, but with commuting on public transport and sitting close to sniffling colleagues all day – that might be tricky.
Thankfully, Parvinder Sagoo, superintendent pharmacist and clinician at SimplyMedsOnline has revealed his tips for staying healthy in the office this cold and flu season.
Keep your work space clean
‘Work places can hold a whole host of germs, this is due to the office space being shared with a large number of people, and so it is more likely that germs will transfer from hands to surfaces, increasingly the likelihood of common colds spreading,’ says Parvinder.
He says the best way to prevent cold and flu germs from spreading is to ensure that the office environment is kept clean.
‘Wiping down surfaces and appliances throughout the day is advised, as well as cleaning areas touched often by multiple people such as fridge doors, kettle handles, door handles and stair bannisters,’ he says.
‘Ensure you keep your own personal work space clean is also advised to ensure any lingering germs are quickly gotten rid of, you may want to bring your own sanitising spray and hand sanitiser into the office.
‘You may also want to ask your boss about office ventilation, to ensure fresh air is entering the building often.’
Maintain good hygiene practice
Look, we all became experts in washing our hands properly and frequently at the start of the pandemic – let’s not slack off now.
‘Ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands each time you visit the toilet, as well as sanitising your hands after touching surfaces which many other people have touched such as door handles, lift buttons or kitchen appliances,’ says Parvinder.
‘If you are showing symptoms of a mild cold, ensure that you cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, catching it in a tissue and then disposing of it, and then sanitise your hands. You may also want to encourage colleagues to do the same and to also carry hand sanitiser on them at all times.’
Steer clear of colleagues with a visible cold
‘No one wants to have to stay away from colleagues who we like, however if some are showing signs of a cold then it is best to steer clear of them and their desk area until symptoms improve,’ says Parvinder.
‘If you sit close to them or have meetings with them, try to encourage them to use a tissue and to sanitise, and ensure you sanitise your hands yourself after each encounter with them.
‘Don’t share coffee mugs, utensils or kitchenware with them and be sure not to shake their hand.’
Sorry, Janet. It’s nothing personal.
Take regular breaks
‘Taking regular breaks from work and getting outside is a good way to ensure you are getting fresh air into your lungs and removing yourself from the stuffy office where germs will be lurking,’ says Parvinder.
He adds that we should all get into the habit of taking our full hour break.
‘This should allow you to go for a walk in the crisp air to blow away any cobwebs and lethargic feelings before returning to the office,’ he says.
Work from home where you can
One good thing to come out of these strange times is increased flexibility in our working set-ups. It’s also a good way to help us avoid too much contact with people who may be carrying germs.
Parvinder suggests: ‘If you do feel worried about catching a cold or flu off a colleague who is showing symptoms, speak to your boss and ask if you can work from home until that person feels better.
‘Even better, speak to your boss and perhaps suggest that the person showing symptoms should work from home as they are putting everyone else at risk.’
Wear a mask
Don’t forget, it’s still a rule that you have to wear a mask over your nose and mouth and Transport for London services, and you should do what feels right for you in your workplace.
‘Wearing a mask is a great way to protect yourself in the office from cold and flu germs, and the best thing is you won’t look foolish whilst doing so as we are so used to seeing people wearing them,’ says Parvinder.
‘Don’t feel embarrassed to bring your mask into meetings and wear it at your desk, if you wear a mask the chances of catching a cold off a colleague are reduced significantly.’
Keep cold and flu treatments to hand
‘It is advisable to bring cold and flu treatments and medications into work, just in case you start to feel bad during the working day and need to curb symptoms quick,’ Parvinder says.
‘De-congestion tablets, throat lozenges, throat sprays and cold and flu treatments all work to prevent and soothe symptoms of a cold and flu such as fatigue, headaches and achy muscles.’
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Remember this advice from the start of the pandemic? Well, it still applies now.
‘When we are sitting at our desks we can often without realising put our fingers in our mouth or rub our eyes, this is a sure fire way to catching a cold as your hands will have touched many different objects which have been exposed to bacteria and germs,’ says Parvinder.
‘Try to remain wary and sanitise your hands often so that if you do accidently rub your eyes or touch your mouth you should be ok.’
Maintain a healthy lifestyle outside the office
Health is holistic, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle outside of the office is the best was to ensure a healthy immune defence in the winter.
‘You should be getting a varied diet of fruit and veg, especially leafy green vegetables as well as foods high in vitamin C,’ says Parvinder.
‘Superfoods are also essential in supporting our immune system. Try to drink plenty of water each day, eight glasses should be sufficient. Most people during the colder months forget to drink water because it’s not hot and they don’t feel they need it, but dehydration still occurs in the winter months.
‘You should also ensure you are keeping active and doing a little bit of exercise each day.’