Avoiding “Sick Time” This Winter

There are a couple things I’ve learned since working in health care communications:

  1. How to put things into perspective. No matter how urgent a piece of communication may seem, I have to remember I’m not the nurse, doctor or surgeon making (literally) life-altering decisions for a patient.
  2. How to start fresh tomorrow. When you’re completely exhausted and still facing a never ending to-do list, sometimes it’s best to call it a day and start again tomorrow. I’ve joked about working late before, but honestly, you’re never as productive as you are before lunch.
  3. When they say the flu is coming, it’s coming. And boy, is it hitting hard and early this year. Since I’m still pretty new to the hospital world, I didn’t understand why some of my colleagues were prepping for flu season before Thanksgiving. But it all makes sense now…

It’s here. In Boston, the mayor announced a public health state of emergency. There have already been 18 flu-related deaths and medical centers are running out of beds. Some hospitals in the city have opened previous closed corridors and have begun treating patients one-per-hallway in each unit. The early measures being taken now haven’t been seen since the H1N1 โ€œswine fluโ€ pandemic in 2009. And it’s only mid-January!

Why the panic? Normally, I’d think the media was just over-exaggerating. Thankfully, I now know differently. So getting back to my list — Maybe the most important thing I’ve learned since joining this line of work is how to protect myself from getting sick.

  • Avoid close contact. This may seem difficult in places like packed subway cars or even in your office cubes, but when possible, keep your distance from those who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If you’re the one coughing and sneezing, do your colleagues and friends a favor and just stay home.
  • 6086247_f260Cover your mouth and nose. Rocket science, I know. But if you’re like me and just can’t grasp that “cough into your elbow” technique (or remember too late), buy yourself a travel-size pack of tissues. Carrying them with you is actually a reminder in itself to cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. For some reason, this is another thing I have to consciously remember. You’d be surprised at how often you touch your face while simply sitting at your desk all day.
  • Disinfect. Your hands, your workspace, your cellphone and your home. Check out this list of Germ Hot Spots in Your Home. When’s the last time you cleaned your door handles? Hamper? Toothbrush holder?

As twenty-somethings, it’s important to realize just how bad the flu is (and promises to be) this year. We all know that “sick days” aren’t as fun now compared to when we were kids. Emails go unanswered, deadlines approach and no one may be there to help you pick up the slack. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and get a flu vaccine — it’s not too late.

What are some of your favorite cold or flu remedies? Share them with us below or @20sTweet!


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2 Responses to Avoiding “Sick Time” This Winter

  1. beantownbuyer says:

    Drinking plenty of water!

  2. I’ve heard your cell phone has more germs than you’d think, too!

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