by MSgt Julie Meintel
445th Airlift Wing
11/19/2013 - Winter 2013/2014 -- We
may not always be able to stop the madness at work, but we can stop the
spread of sickness. Wintertime is prime cold and flu season, and it is
one time when it's not good to share! Staying home from work when you
are sick not only helps you get better faster, it also helps keep your
No one likes to have to miss work because of the flu, and certainly no
one enjoys the expanded to-do list and all the missed calls and emails
to catch up on when back at the office. For flyers, it's a bit of a
process to "call in sick" for a flight or a mission, otherwise known as
"going DNIF (Duties Not Including Flying)." DNIF always involves a visit
to the flight surgeon and forms to be filled out and submitted. For
those of us with ground duties, it's not quite as much work to miss
work, but getting back in the swing of things after you've been sick can
still be tough. So should you go to work even when you are sick? How do
you know when to tough it out and when to stay in bed?
Let's look at your symptoms. Do you have the sniffles? How about a deep,
raspy cough that produces mucus? Are you achy and tired? Do you have
the chills, even while you're sweating? Yep, you are officially too sick
to go to work. Call the flight surgeon so you can get off that mission
you are scheduled to fly. If you're sick and not scheduled to fly, you
should still consider seeing the doctor, and take a day or two off to
rest and get better. If you are sniffly but not feverish or achy and you
feel okay otherwise, it's more likely allergies than a cold and you can
feel safe going in to work. Make sure you bring some tissues, though!
If you have chills and you're hot and sweaty at the same time, you
probably have a fever. And if you have a fever, you should stay home
from work. A fever is cause to consider seeing your doctor, especially
if it hangs on for a few days. A word about fevers: we probably all know
or remember from health class that when you have a fever, it means
you're fighting some type of infection. But there are grades of fevers,
too. Not all are catastrophic and cause for alarm. A temperature of 98.6
degrees is the average normal; yours may be a touch higher or lower
than that, but anything below 100 degrees would generally be considered a
low-grade fever. Lace up your boots and go on in to work.
Now, about that cough. Is it a tickle in the back of your throat? Do you
have postnasal drip? In that case, it is more likely to be associated
with allergies rather than a cold or the flu. Is it a deep, raspy cough
that leaves you a little short of breath? Are you bringing up mucus with
it? This type of cough is probably a cold--possibly the flu. If it
persists for more than a couple of days, see the doctor to make sure it
is not something more serious, like bronchitis or even pneumonia.
Now that we have decided whether you can safely go in to work without
sharing your cold with your squadron-mates, let's talk a little bit
about how you can help keep your work section healthy and free from
germs. These tips are useful anytime but especially during cold and flu
season, when more people tend to get sick.
· Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. This one is a
no-brainer. We've all had that experience when someone coughs or sneezes
on you; not only is it thoroughly icky, it makes it much more likely
that you will get whatever virus that person has. Try to cough or sneeze
into the crook of your elbow rather than into your hand, or use a
tissue that can go right into the garbage. You touch your computer
mouse, your phone, counters, doorknobs, file cabinets, and everything
else with your hands, spreading those germs all over the place.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. For the same reasons you
don't cough or sneeze into your hands, keep your hands and fingers away
from your face so you don't cover them with germs that you share with
everyone and everything with which you come into contact. In addition to
that, viruses and germs can enter your body very easily through your
eyes, nose, and mouth, so just avoid touching them and you will minimize
your chances of catching your coworker's cold.
· Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for
at least 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle,
Little Star" or "Happy Birthday") several times a day. Come on, no one's
listening! If you really don't want to sing, you can always just count
to 20. If no soap and water is available, it's fine to use antibacterial
wipes or gels, but good old soap and water will do the trick. Hand
washing is so important and so effective at curbing the spread of germs
that some World Health Organization researchers have estimated that if
people washed their hands routinely, approximately a million deaths each
year could be prevented.
· Keep surfaces clean. Wipe down your telephone handset, your keyboard,
your mouse, your desk drawer handles, and your doorknobs regularly with
disinfectant cleaner. This will kill any lingering germs, or at least
help slow the spread of germs, and your coworkers will thank you.
· Last but definitely not least, don't be late getting your flu shot.
It'll help you stay healthy, and you will be staying current at the same
These are just a few things to remember that will help keep you and your
coworkers healthier all winter long. For more information, check out
the Center for Disease Control's website at www.cdc.gov.