A couple of sneezes. Some handshakes or shared food. And the flu spreads from one person to the entire office. In 2017, over 710,000 Americans were affected by it. Yet, not many of us claimed our sick leave.

According to a study by a global public health organization, 20% of Americans never call in sick. And 17% stay home only under doctor’s orders. Those who come to work are 60% less productive. So why do we still go?

We’re driven by fear. Many studies highlight the reasons – all a manifestation of ‘presenteeism’. It is the exact opposite of absenteeism, prompting employees to always work. Here’s why:

  • Managerial expectations: 25% of workers claim that they go to work when sick because their managers expect them to show up, no matter what. Managers themselves do the same.
  • Toughing it out: Men (33%) are twice as likely as women (17%) to always go to work when sick. This is due to social expectations of being ‘strong’ or ‘tough’.
  • Job insecurity: 13% of workers believe co-workers come to work sick because they don’t trust their colleagues to support them while they are gone. Moreover, workers even lose pay.
  • Fear of missing out: 42 % of workers have deadlines or are afraid they will have too much work to make up if they take a sick day.

Given this, can we protect ourselves from falling sick? Here are practices to help you breathe easy:

  1. Don’t touch your face. The Journal of Infectious Diseases states that on an average, we touch our face 3.5 times in an hour. Our mouth and nose is the most common way for germs to enter our body.

Solution: You know this one – wash your hands often. Especially before you eat. And if you can’t, then use hand sanitizers. However, also take a step back, and reduce touching your face!

  1. Load up on fluids. When under a fever or flu, our body burns up or loses fluids, and creates mucus which congests us. We need to strengthen our immune system, and help the body thin out mucus.

Solution: Don’t just drink water. When sick, we lose electrolytes. So, the magic lies in soups, juices, and hot tea. Infact, tea drinkers are less likely to face cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease.

  1. Gargle. Mild throat pain, and a runny nose or blocked nasal passage are the classic signs of a flu onset. Because our sinuses get inflamed, mucus blocks our breathing, and our respiratory tract gets infected.

Solution: Saline water gargle – one tsp salt to a glass of warm water. A 2005 study suggests that healthy people who gargled thrice a day for two months, had fewer symptoms than those who didn’t.

These suggestions might sound common-sensical. Yet, we forget them. And if you find it challenging to maintain these practices, maybe work from home for a bit when unwell?

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