It starts innocently enough. You wake up with a barely perceptible scratchy throat and runny nose. The next thing you know, your head hurts, your muscles ache — you simply do not feel well.
While having to deal with the onslaught of symptoms is reason enough to protect yourself from cold and flu germs, the cost of missing work due to an illness could be even greater. According to Walgreens, the flu cost American workers $8.5 billion in lost wages from unpaid sick days during the winter of 2012-13. A related Walgreens study found that many workers end up spending more than $250 out of pocket to treat these symptoms.
The good news is that you don’t need to be a casualty of the winter-germ season. Taking proper precautions can help reduce your chances of getting sick and missing work. Here are the top five ways to protect yourself this fall and winter from those illness-causing germs.
1) Get a Shot in the Arm: Unfortunately, once you catch the flu bug, there isn’t a bottle or pill in the medicine aisle that can turn back the hands of time. That’s why it is important to defend yourself from getting sick before symptoms take hold. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting an annual flu vaccine is one of the most important preventive measures to reduce the risk of coming down with the flu. Make it a point to have your whole shop vaccinated to ensure you stay productive all season long.
2) Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize: Working in a repair shop and interacting with customers goes hand in hand. That means having routine contact with the same contaminated surfaces your customers touch, such as their steering wheel, door handles and gear shifter. The CDC has estimated that up to 80% of infections are transmitted by hand. This is why the practice of good hand hygiene — handwashing and hand sanitizing — is so important. Yet, running to the bathroom to wash your hands isn’t always an option in a busy shop. That’s why it makes sense to have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer readily available at the front desk and next to your bays for easy accessibility.
3) Wipe Away Your Worries: Viruses like the flu and the norovirus (aka, the winter vomiting bug) can live on the hard surfaces in your shop for days. These viruses can easily be passed on through contact. A recent study from Wakefield Research found that 57% of Americans do not wash their hands after engaging in one or more “unsanitary acts,” which include things like using the restroom, sneezing or coughing into one’s hands and being around someone who is visibly sick. These bugs can find their way onto everything in your shop, from computer keyboards to the vending machine buttons. Make sure to routinely wipe down the most commonly touched surfaces in your shop with surface sanitizers and disinfectants to stop the spread of these cold and flu germs.
4) Go Back to Basics: When it comes to warding off illness, your mom was right. Eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising are simple steps you can take to strengthen your immune system.
5) Take One (Sick Day) For the Team: No matter how diligent you are in protecting yourself, illness is sometimes unavoidable. Help prevent the spread of illness in your shop by staying home if your symptoms are bad. Although nobody likes to miss work, the only thing worse than having one employee out for the day is having your whole shop sidelined with cold and flu symptoms.