It's that time of year when simply hearing a co-worker sneeze can be enough to send waves of dread passing through the office as everyone braces themselves for another bout with the seasonal flu. The flu comes around every year, and although who gets sick and who doesn't often seems random, there are certain habits that will increase your odds of coming down with the worst of it.
1. Forget to wash your hands
The single best means of preventing the flu virus from spreading is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Wash with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds several times per day, especially before and after meals and after every trip to the restroom.
2. Touch everything
Flu germs can live on surfaces like elevator buttons, fax/copier machines, telephones, and the breakroom refrigerator handle for several hours or even days, just waiting for an unsuspecting hand to pick them up.
3. Frequently touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
Have a habit of biting your nails when you're nervous? Or rubbing your eyes when you've been staring at the computer too long? It might seem harmless, but that little bad habit could be just the thing that transfers the flu bug from your keyboard to your body.
4. Hang tight with sick co-workers
The flu bug travels through the air on microscopic water droplets, and if you're within a few feet of an infected person who sneezes or coughs it might just float right into your eyes, nose, or mouth. It can also land on nearby surfaces, like the telephone and that pen they just lent you.
5. Toss the hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer might smell bad and be a hassle to use sometimes -- but according to the CDC, when you can't get to a sink to wash your hands, it's "very effective" and is the next best thing for killing flu germs.
6. Dip into the office candy jar
That sweet little jar of candy on your coworker's desk or that communal box of donuts in the break room might look tempting -- but beware that they're really just fast-tracks to completing numbers 2, 3 and 8 on this list.
7. Skip the flu shot
Every year the flu season is different, so getting an annual vaccine is the best way to ensure you're protected against the most current strains of the virus and will not only stay healthy yourself but won't spread the disease to others.
8. Hit fast food for lunch
The high-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium fare found at most fast food restaurants offers little in the way of body strengthening nutrients and antioxidants that are so important in helping your system fight off the flu bug if you were to catch it.
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Lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems including a depressed immune system. Get enough shut-eye and you just might have a shot at fighting the flu before it gets a foothold; go to work sleep-deprived and you're asking for trouble.
10. Skip the gym
Moderate, regular exercise has been shown to boost the immune system and decrease a person's odds of catching upper respiratory infections like the cold and flu. If you're actively sick, it might be wise to take it easy; but if you're healthy and want to stay that way, don't skip your workout.