World Health Day 2019

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Staying healthy at work

Keeping well in the office can be difficult. Research shows sick leave in South Africa is continually rising.

An office environment is comprised of shared surfaces and a large number of people within the area of the building. Thus, exposure to illnesses is often heightened. Follow these tips to stay healthy at work and help stop the spread of germs.


Keep your hands clean

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitiser. Do this before meals, after contact with potentially contagious people and door handles, keyboards, phones, shared office materials or equipment.


Cover when you cough

Sneeze and cough into a tissue, throw the tissue away and then wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand. Most viruses spread through droplets from your nose and mouth during coughing, sneezing, touching something with the virus and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.


Stay at home

If you are ill, rather visit the doctor and get the medicine you need. Then stay at home while you recuperate. You should also advise ‘sick’ co-workers to do the same – especially if symptoms are infectious.

Try to stress less

Keep other life stresses to a minimum where possible. Studies show stress plays a role in supressing the immune system. Also, you are less likely to make healthy choices if you are stressed, depressed or anxious. Relaxation exercises and regular physical activity can help improve your mood.


Make sure you stay hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids and avoid sharing drinking bottles, cups and towels with others. Avoid the fizzy drinks which add calories and choose water instead. In the colder months, you will probably drink more tea and coffee. Try to cut down the amount of sugar you drink in each cup.


Eat Vitamin C rich foods

Choose Vitamin C rich foods such as strawberries and citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, broccoli/dark green vegetables and peppers. Pack these in your lunchbox the night before to avoid the morning rush when you’re less likely to choose healthier foods. Soups are a great way to include vegetables in your diet.


Replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones

Replace meeting snacks such as biscuits, pastries and cakes with fruit or raw vegetables. Some research shows your sense of fullness decreases in winter causing us to eat more than we need. This may be why many of us put on weight in winter coupled with the fact that we do less outdoor activity.


Stay active

Research shows moderate levels of regular exercise improves heart health but can also strengthen the immune system. Consider taking a brisk 15-minute walk during lunch. If the weather is cold and rainy, consider exercises like wall squats, seated leg extensions, wall push ups, seated tricep dips and calf raises at your desk or in a meeting room. Place a reminder on your phone or desk to stand up every 20 minutes, walk to a colleague’s desk for a quick catch up and take the stairs where possible.


Get enough sleep

Get enough sleep of at least seven hours per night. Be mindful that screen time can interfere with sleep quality. Long term sleep deprivation depresses the immune system so you’re less likely to be able to fight off illness.


Consider the flu vaccine

Consider getting an annual flu vaccine. Flu viruses are changing all the time. Eventually the flu viruses change so much that your antibodies may not recognise newer viruses and you may become sick from the flu. The flu vaccine helps prevent flu and reduces the spread of the infection in the workplace and community. Even if the flu vaccine is not 100% effective against the current flu strain it will reduce your chances of getting the flu. Consider other options with your doctor if you have reacted to a flu vaccine in the past or if you are allergic to eggs as the flu vaccine contains eggs.

If you do get sick during winter, visit your GP for diagnosis and treatment. They should prescribe the best treatment plan and help you return to work as a healthier employee.