We’ve officially reached the time of year where the office staff is growing thin — and those who are still here, we wish would just go home already. You know, be sick somewhere else.
We caught up with Laura Martin, PA-C at FirstHealth Family Medicine for a Q+A on some of the most frequently asked questions about cold and flu season. Consider this our way of saving you from the black hole that is WebMD.
Q: How can you avoid getting sick at work? Like, is it actually possible?
LM: YES! You can and should be taking every precaution to keep from getting sick at work. The biggest thing that you can do to avoid cold and flu season is to wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your face and eyes. Many people are not aware that you can contract viruses from touching your face. As a rule, keep your hands off.
Make sure you are keeping your immune system strong by getting restful sleep, eating a healthy diet, minimizing stress (read: avoid ALL meetings — doctor’s orders) and exercising regularly. Some animal studies have shown that exercise over time may boost the immune system, so get moving (unless you are already sick, and in that case, rest is key).
Q: How can you help your kid avoid getting sick?
LM: From a community perspective, keep your sick children home from school or daycare and from public areas. Wash hands frequently, especially when out in public. Sanitize grocery carts with sanitizing wipes. Also, make sure to get your flu vaccine, which can protect your child from both influenza and possible complications from influenza.
Q: OK, but isn’t it too late to get a flu shot?
LM: Absolutely not. You will want to get your flu shot as soon as possible because flu season is upon us, and it takes 2 weeks to be effective. Remember that your flu shot protects you but it also protects others around you who are more susceptible to complications from the flu, such as the elderly and babies.
Q: Say you follow these rules and get sick anyway (thanks, doc). What can we do now?
LM: The number one thing you can do when you are sick is to make sure that you are resting. Studies have shown that lack of sleep weakens the immune system. Make sure you are resting, sleeping, eating adequate caloric/nutritional intake of healthy foods (think of your body running a marathon fighting the virus), and avoiding exposing others to the virus. If you have flu-like symptoms, there are prescriptions that can shorten the illness by a day. Just ask your healthcare provider.
Q: What if you’ve been sick for a while. When should you see a doctor?
LM: Viruses can last over two weeks. If you are gradually improving every day and on the upswing, you can probably ride it out. If you ever feel like you are getting better and then suddenly gets worse, you should be seen by a provider. Also any new symptoms that pop up over the course of an illness warrant an appointment with your provider (for example, ear pain, new fever). Remember that you know your body best, so if you are worried or uncomfortable, it is always the right decision to be seen in your provider’s office.
Q: I can hear my boss hounding me already. Can I go back to work as soon as my meds come in?
LM: You can return to work when you are fever free for 24 hours and able to complete your work duties and function in school. Always remember that rest is vitally important, so it will likely not be best to return during the first few days of illness.
Need to see a doctor, soon? Visit one of FirstHealth’s Convenient Care locations.