Above the inFLUence

Among the annual public service announcements in this editorial space is the “flu etiquette” editorial. Amid other things we say every year, we strongly advise an annual flu shot, but we also recognize that some people strenuously disagree with this notion. One of our staff members gets one. One of our staff members believes he gets sick every time he gets one. Another of our staff members believes he got a multi-year flu shot a few years ago, but we’re not going to break the news to him that there is no such thing.

According to flu.gov, there are many things a person can, and should, do to avoid contracting the flu. There are steps you can take in your daily life to help protect you from getting the flu.

Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.

Here are the same website’s suggestions on how to avoid spreading the flu.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

WebMD offers some other clues as to how doctors avoid cold and flu germs.

Avoid public surfaces like computer keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, pens that are given to you when you sign for a credit card purchase (or to fill out forms in a doctor’s office)

Exercise to increase your immune system

Health.com also has some good suggestions.

Avoid that holiday dip when you’re visiting friends. Double-dippers, you know.

Quit smoking.

Dispose of all your used tissues yourself.

The Centers for Disease Control has some pretty good advice at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/. Top advice (after getting an annual flu shot): Try to avoid contact with sick people. Good to know.

So, what’s all this mean, and why do we care enough to devote an annual editorial to flu prevention? The bottom line is that each flu season, nearly 111 million workdays are lost due to the flu. That equals approximately $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity. And yet, our culture both rewards those who come to work or school or the grocery store with the flu and punishes those who try to stay home. For example, some restaurants require employees to either come to work with the flu or not to work again until they pay for a doctor’s excuse to say they’re healthy. Most people don’t go to the doctor for a simple flu—often doctors are booked up for month—which sends those people to urgent care or even the emergency room for an excuse, but more likely they just set out your eating utensils while they’re contagious.

Seems like the season for a change.