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Prescription to Keep the Office Healthy During Flu Season

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If you’re a small business owner, dependent on everyone showing up to do their jobs, chances are good that flu season causes you more heartburn than tax season.

As a particularly intense flu epidemic approaches fever pitch throughout the Kansas City region, it’s an ideal time to assess ways to keep business running efficiently—and how to avoid the absenteeism squeeze because of sick employees or workers calling in to nurse kids down with the flu.Darryl Nelson HCA

As an entrepreneur, you know knowledge is power, whether it’s in product innovation to help your company continue to grow or ways to motivate your workforce for maximum productivity. Here are some tips on protecting your most precious assets from the flu.

Become fluent in flu

Each year from November to April, millions of people are impacted by the flu, a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that typically manifests with headaches, body aches and a lack of energy. Seasonal flu activity, which started in Kansas City last October, generally peaks in the U.S. in January or February, but can continue to occur as late as May.

The flu, which typically enters the body through the mouth or nose, can be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu can cause mild to severe illness and serious cases can result in hospitalization or, in some instances, death.

An annual flu shot is the first and best defense

One of the most effective ways to prevent at least 75 percent of flu illnesses is through a simple flu vaccination—it decreases the chance of hospitalization by 60 percent and death from the contagious virus by 80 percent.

Flu vaccines are updated each year to combat the most common circulating viruses, so it’s important to get the shot every year. It’s not too late to encourage employees to get a flu shot if they haven’t already.

The vaccine is not 100 percent effective

However, the vaccine does shorten the illness if you do get ill, despite being vaccinated, and secondary complications, like pneumonia, are lessened if vaccinated.

Exercise common sense

The flu virus can become airborne if an infected individual coughs or sneezes, which tends to spread the flu rapidly to people in close proximity. In addition to the getting flu shot, encourage employees to be vigilant in good hand hygiene and to cover their nose and mouth when sneezing.

Practicing good self-care is essential to overall wellness, too—get plenty of sleep and exercise, drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet. This will increase the immune system’s protection during the flu season, and also against other cold viruses typical during fall and winter months.

Keep antibacterial soap in the kitchen area and restrooms and provide each employee with a box of tissues. Discourage sharing of electronic devices, ear buds, phones—anything that can pass along germs.

Know flu’s symptoms

While flu symptoms can be mistaken for a cold, the onset tends to be more sudden and includes indicators like severe muscle aches, chills, extreme fatigue, sore throat, headache and cough. A 100-degree or higher fever or feeling feverish can also be a flu symptom—but remember, not everyone with the flu has a fever.

Stop the spread—call in sick

Mild flu symptoms can quickly escalate and become severe, so it’s important that individuals with the flu take precautions to protect themselves, their families and co-workers and others by avoiding close contact and staying home from work until fever-free for at least 24 hours. This helps stop the virus from spreading.

Call the doctor

A health care provider should be contacted and seen when warning signs such as fever, aches and cough start, in order to get appropriate treatment to limit the flu’s duration and severity. In a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or get the employee to the nearest emergency room.

Adopt a healthy culture

For long-term health and wellness, consider offering healthy snack options for your company’s employees, including nuts, fresh and dried fruits, water, yogurt and protein bars. Start a lunchtime walking program and offer a gym membership discount. Continuing to look for ways to champion your employees’ good health—it will ultimately benefit your bottom line.