6 ways to ward off H1N1 at work


Take these steps to protect yourself against the flu.

There's no evidence to date that cats or dogs are susceptible to the H1N1 virus. But the number of people infected with the new strain of influenza continues to climb. Because you're in constant contact with possibly contaminated sources at work-clients, co-workers, even counter tops-it's vital for you to keep your immune system strong. Here are 6 suggestions to curb your chances of contracting swine flu.

1. Wash your hands frequently

H1N1 spreads like other flu viruses. So be sure to cover your coughs and sneezes and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Click here for a step-by-step guide to first-rate hand washing.

2. Disinfect everything

Like the common flu, the H1N1 virus can live up to eight hours on inanimate objects-doorknobs, keyboards and computer mice, counter tops, even pens. (That's right. Fingers aren't the only things you need to watch for. If you have the habit of chewing on pens-or anything handy-start paying close attention to what comes near your mouth.) So even if the person who's sick left hours ago, his or her germs are still lurking in your practice.

3. Use technology

If you don't already offer client forms online-start. It's one less thing you have to worry about being contaminated. Also, whenever possible, telecommute. Talk to your owner about what work-payroll, scheduling, and so on-that you could do from home?

4. If you're sick, stay home

Even if you're feeling just a little under the weather, consider taking a sick day to avoid infecting others-or becoming infected due to your low immune system. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they're free from a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit) or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines. Of course, don't cry wolf. If you simply have a headache, go to work. Most practices will already be short-staffed this season due to the flu.

5. Ask clients to be respectful

Request that clients feeling ill reschedule their appointments for a time when they're feeling better. How? Send out an e-mail or text message, or even post flyers on the practice's front door. Some human hospitals have even gone as far as to as their flu-like clients to wait in a separate area. Either way you run the risk of offending clients. But it may just reduce your risk of becoming sick.

6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Just like you tell your clients, prevention is the best protection. So eat right and exercise-follow these tips for staying healthy-and talk to your family doctor about getting the recommended flu and H1N1 vaccinations.

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