Be Healthy this Cold & Flu Season

October 22, 2010

It’s that time of year again. Flu and cold season.

It’s that time of year again. Flu and cold season. One of the best ways to stay healthy and avoid those maladies is to be even more vigilant when you’re at your supermarket, café or restaurant.

You diligently wash your hands and take care to keep up with your vitamins and nutrients during the flu and cold season, but others may not be as diligent. A study by the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) discovered of the more than 4,000 workers surveyed in New York, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington, Miami and Maine, more than 63 percent of the restaurant workers said they had cooked and served food while sick.

While it may be understandable that under-the-weather servers show up for work – since 87.8 percent of those workers responding to the survey said they have no paid sick days - workers could easily be passing illnesses on to you. So, what do you do in public settings where your exposure to germs is unlimited?

First of all, be aware. Look for signals that your server or food handler is sick - are they coughing? Are they runny-nosed or do they look flushed?

When you’re dining out, don’t be shy, ask the host to reassign you to a different table and another server if you notice your server has a cold or cough.

While picking up take-out food, if you notice an employee preparing your food has a cold or cough, ask for someone else to prepare your order. If embarrassed to do so, head to another shop – it’s more than likely that same employee prepped a majority of the product they would be serving you at the start of shift. Be sure to alert management why you’re leaving, many times they are not aware of sick staff.

In the supermarket, take advantage of the sanitary wipes in the cart area. Be sure to wipe handles down before you begin shopping for your groceries, and wipe your hands as well as you head into the produce department.

Also, stay three or more feet away from people who are coughing or sneezing. This will keep you outside the immediate spray of their germs. Remember to keep your hands away from your face. It's easy to get infected with a cold or flu virus. All you need to do is come in contact with the virus on some surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose.

Still, one of the most important elements to staying healthy this season remains focused on hand washing. Be sure to wash your hands with hot, soapy water every time you use the bathroom and before every meal. To be sure you're really washing away the potential viruses and bacteria you've come in contact with, use hot water and really scrub your hands for at least 60 seconds. If you’re in an environment without a sink or you work in a high-germ environment, such as a school, carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you.

And if you’re not feeling well, coughing or have the flu – give your neighbors and co-workers the same courtesies … get plenty of rest, cover your sneezes and coughs and when possible avoid contact with others.