Tips for Avoiding Office Illnesses

With cold and flu season almost here, one of the thriftiest and best tips is to avoid getting sick. You save money on doctor visits and medications and, most importantly, you stay healthy and productive.

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After being very sick several winters in a row, I started to look around for easy, frugal, and green ways to stay well. What I found I could improve at work surprised me, but (knock on wood) but by following these 10 simple steps, I have gone two seasons without getting sick:

  1. Never use the water fountain or water cooler at work (or in any public place). People often put their germy bottles right up to the spout. Drink plenty of water during the day (if your doctor says it is OK), but bring your own from home packaged in a clean bottle or travel mug.

  2. If the water cooler has a hot water spout, avoid using that also! I have seen people put their germy cups right up to the spout. Use your own water and a microwave safe cup to make your own coffee or tea.

  3. Avoid touching the microwave buttons, sink handles, and candy machine buttons with bare hands. Use a paper towel or for pushing buttons use a pencil (eraser end and just for this purpose - you don't want to be chewing thoughtfully on this pencil). While you are at it, the same goes for avoiding touching the buttons on the fax machine, the copier, hallway phones, or the elevator. Keys can also be a handy tool for pushing buttons.

  4. Mom was right when she said never touch anything in a public bathroom. Put toilet paper or a seat cover on the seat, don't ever put your purse on the floor, always wash your hands when you are done (sing happy birthday to yourself twice using hot water and soap to do it right), and use paper towels to turn the water on and off and to get paper towels to dry your hands. Also use a paper towel to open the door to leave.

  5. Don't buy the expensive small bottles of hand sanitizer. When you have an empty hotel shampoo bottle, clean it, and fill it with hand sanitizer from your economy bottle. Write the contents with black marker and cover the marking with clear tape. Keep a bottle in your purse and at your desk. If you can't wash your hands right away, use the sanitizer after using the copier or sitting at a coworker's desk or conference room.
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  6. Don't be rude and not shake hands when meeting someone, but until you can (unobtrusively and without insulting the person) make time to wash your hands; avoid touching your face after the greeting.

  7. If your coworkers are sick, encourage them to talk to your manager about going home sick or even working from home. The fewer germs in the work place, the better. If you are sick, you need to do the same.

  8. Bring a healthy bagged lunch every day, and if eating in the public lunch room, wipe down the table and wash your hands before opening your lunch. Always bring your own utensils (it is green and less chance of having them touched by germy hands if they are in the pick your own silverware containers).

  9. Dress appropriately for your office temperature. If you know your office is always too hot or too cold, dress in layers so you stay comfortable. Being too hot or too cold can stress you out, and when you are stressed, you are more vulnerable to getting sick. Wash your office sweater regularly and avoid lending it out.

  10. Last but not least, get plenty of sleep. If you let yourself get over tired during cold and flu season, you are more vulnerable to picking up the passing germs.

By pghgirl40 from Pittsburgh, PA

September 2, 20100 found this helpful

Dear pghgirl40 from Pittsburgh, PA . I hope people listen to you. You have said everything I have been saying for 50 years or more. Wash those hands! Plus all the the other hints you have suggested. If everyone stayed home when they first start feeling bad and have that touch of sore throat or temp. They wouldn't spread it to others. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. The newest trick is to sneeze into your elbow,so you don't get germs on your hands. Kids are being taught that in kindergarten now. Also be careful when traveling,airlines trains, buses, cruise ships. All breeding grounds for germs that can make you very sick.

Be well everyone. GG Vi

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September 2, 20100 found this helpful

I agree with the washing hands, but don't you think not touching any of the buttons on anything is a little bit obsessive-compulsive? And sneaking off to wash your hands after shaking hands? I taught school for 35 years, and no one is germier than children, but all I did was wash hands before lunch and after using the washroom, and I was sick maybe once every 3 years.

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September 2, 20100 found this helpful

You probably wouldn't think it was OCD to not want to touch buttons & to wash your hands if you do, if you really thought about how many dirty hands touched that stuff! I've seen people not wash their hands after: going to the bathroom, changing dirty diapers, coughing/sneezing into their hands, sticking their fingers into their mouths, picking their noses (adults too), scratching their butt, letting the dog lick their fingers after it licks its butt, etc! My step-dad almost never washed his hands after doing any of the above plus working outside on his little farm getting dirt, fertilizer, oil, antifreeze & weed poison on his hands -gee, he shared a whole cornucopia of stuff every time he went to town to buy something or have a cup of coffee at the corner cafe!

I hate to be graphic, but imagine a man, who has to touch himself when he urinates, not washing his hands, then touching everything before you do!! Or someone who changes a dirty diaper,gets poop on their hand & wipes it off with a paper towel! That is how people get staph infections!

I wish these people who don't think they need to wash their hands (can't see any germs after all, so what harm is it) & the people who think that it strengthens your immune system to be exposed to those germs could see what kind of affect is has on someone with a weakened immune system! Make them sick or cause an infection at best, put them in the hospital or kill them at the worst!

I wasn't so paranoid until my son was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 2 & we found out that what was more dangerous than the cancer was what could happen to him when he had no immune system! Just going to the store or to dinner, or letting him play on a playground could put his life in danger! He had to be hospitalized on antibiotics from fever if he got sick. Staph infection was our greatest enemy, and that is a direct result from people not washing their hands after going to the bathroom! I watched a little boy nearly die & spend nearly 3 months in the hospital because he got an infection he picked up at school!

My mother had a life-threatening illness & kidney disease.She had to take massive amounts of steroids-reducing her immune system. For a year she had to battle the illness & infections from what she caught from other people-on top of battling her disease.

I used to work at my children's school & was hardly ever sick also. Then I began catching everything that went around, it seemed like I was always sick, even after I quit working at the school to babysit my grandkids. I noticed that after I went grocery shopping, I nearly always got sick within the next few days-of course,look at all those germs & bacteria that people so generously share with me. I began santizing the cart handles before using it, then cleaning my hands after I loaded everything into the car,then again after unloading it at home. I don't touch any button with my finger unless I have took, I use the a knuckle or my key. I don't touch the keys on the card swiper (I use the corner of my card) & I don't use the pens at the store & most especially the doctor's office that they give you to sign your credit slips, I use my own. I always wash my hands as soon as I get home & make my family also.

I was eventually diagnosed with diabetes, something else that weakens your immune system. I follow the precautions above & hardly ever get sick. When I forget, sure enough.

There are people all around you who look healthy but have weakened immune systems for various reasons. I for one am very grateful not just to people who wash their hands, but also to the people who don't like to touch things other people touch & clean their hands if they do because by doing that, they aren't sharing the germs & grime from every single person who touched that object before them!

So maybe I have become a little OCD myself-but only because I know what can happen to me & someone I might not ever meet,but pass those 'creepy-crawlies' on to!

And now, I'll step down from my soapbox! LOL!

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September 3, 20100 found this helpful

Great Granny Vi, Louel53 and lyonpridej,

Thanks for the feedback and additional info/support! May you and your families be blessed with good health!

OCD, maybe, but having been so sick and hearing stories like lyonpridej. I am convinced that a little germ proofing common sense can go a long way to keeping everyone healthy!

Without our health what are we, unfortunately sick or dead. Life is too short, enjoy every day and as the late great Warren Zevon said: enjoy every sandwich, just make sure that you had clean hands when you made it. :)

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September 4, 20100 found this helpful

An important point to remember is a person with a normal immune system does not have to worry about germs on door knobs etc. Infact said germ exposure helps build the immune system stronger. That said someone with an impaired immune system needs to take precautions. I too had a child with cancer and the biggest fear was from chicken pox and other infections. Of course if you are sick you should stay home.

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September 5, 20100 found this helpful

I have been told by a coworker that the germiest part of the office is the computer keyboards...and the more I thought about it, it really makes sense. First of all in my office we share all of our equipment and desks. We do wipe down the phones but not the keyboards. I have purchased a keyboard and I think that when I am scheduled to work I will bring it and use it.

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September 6, 20100 found this helpful

When I worked at my desk, I had a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and paper towels which I wiped off phone, keypads and desk daily all year. Also, the filing cabinet handles and at the switchboard desk to wipe off the phone even to use it while covering someone's lunch break. Germs are everywhere in an office setting. You need to only see high absentees in the winter time where you work to know they are about.

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April 6, 20120 found this helpful

Other problem areas:

Infections are circulated by air conditioning systems

If you take public transport you will be exposed to more illnesses than if you travel alone.

However, keep washing your hands. It makes a big difference.

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August 23, 20120 found this helpful

Also, as I taught my kids; wash your hands before and after using toilet. Who knows what may be on your hands before you touch yourself especially for females. Also hand Sanitizer is nothing more than alcohol in gel, So why not put the alcohol in a small mister purse sized bottle.

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October 4, 20150 found this helpful

My family has a policy of not eating out--at fast foods or elsewhere- from about October to May in an effort to stay healthy. When the kids were little, I noticed that friends who ate out through the winter got sick a lot more than we did. And when we did get sick, it was shortly after eating out. Ever since we have adopted this policy, we rarely get colds or the flu. Just think of all the germs possibly going into the food. People who are sick don't stay home from work any more and this includes food restaurant workers. We also don't buy items at the grocery store from the deli during these months. This "policy" has made a big difference in our household.

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