Cold and flu season is in full swing, and chances are, at least some of you are reluctant to stay home from work when you’re sick. Whether you refuse to take a sick day for your cold or flu, or if you feel fine but start to get sick while you’re at the office, or if you’re just surrounded by jerks who come to work sick, here are a few items to have handy to survive cold and flu season at work.
1. Tissues. Sneeze into one of these, away from everyone else, then throw it away immediately. I know it sounds like rocket science, but I promise you, it’s easy. Also know that having these handy will make you really popular, because, well, everyone always needs one.
2. Hand sanitizer. Regular hand washing is actually best for preventing pathogens from getting the best of you, but it’s unrealistic to get up and go to the bathroom to wash your hands every time someone around you coughs, hands you paperwork, or touches something on your desk. Look for a moisturizing formula (or just pair with lotion) to combat the drying effect of the alcohol.
3. Antibacterial wipes. Clean off your surfaces (desk, phone, mouse, etc.) in the morning, before you go home, and if and when anyone ill comes too close.
4. Meds. Obviously, the best thing to do when you’re sick is stay home and rest, but sometimes you don’t start feeling gross until you’re already at work. You want something non-drowsy that can alleviate multiple symptoms (fever, cough, aching, sneezing, etc.) until you can get back to your own bed to sleep everything off.
5. Tea bags and honey. These will soothe a sore throat at work, but be forewarned: My doctor actually recommends lukewarm tea, not ice cold or hot, because extreme temperatures, while initially making you feel a little better, can actually irritate your throat more and extend the life of your cold or flu.
6. Decongestants. My pharmacist recommends 12-hour formulas, not 24-hour ones, because, well, the ones that claim to last 24 hours don’t—and you can only take one of those a day.
7. Water. Hydration will not only make you feel generally better, but it also helps to thin the stupid mucus that’s probably clogging your sinuses and dripping down your throat.
8. Lozenges. These are especially helpful if you’re going to have to talk in meetings or on the phone when you’re under the weather.
9. A sweater or wrap. It’s good to have one of these handy anyway since most offices are freezing, but especially so if you’re not feeling great.
10. A small humidifier. The dry air in winter is what irritates your body and helps to breed germs during cold and flu season. A humidifier can help you feel better at work—and keep one at home, too.