In the winter it often seems like everyone is catching one thing or another, and short of hibernating at home, chances are you’re going to be exposed to plenty of germs. So what can you do to lessen the likelihood of you falling ill?

Well, as always, a healthy diet and regular exercise are near the top of the list. Eating nutritious, vitamin-rich food and maintaining a good level of fitness mean that your body doesn’t have to work so hard to stay healthy, and can keep your immune system running at full pelt.

Getting outside for some exercise in the limited daylight hours we currently have is also a good way to improve your mood, and reduce the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Probably the most important factor in protecting yourself though, is rigorous attention to hygiene. Colds, flu, and the dreaded Winter Vomiting Bug (norovirus) are all very contagious, and can be spread through coughs, sneezes, and sometimes even inanimate objects. Important hygiene points include:

  • washing your hands regularly and properly, particularly before preparing or eating any food
  • avoiding touching your nose or mouth
  • cleaning shared surfaces regularly to keep them free of germs.

And if you’re already sick, try to be a ‘good citizen’ and make sure you don’t pass it on to others:

  • try to stay off work until you’re well and no longer contagious
  • always sneeze and cough into tissues to help prevent infecting others
  • throw away used tissues immediately and wash your hands
  • if you suspect you have norovirus, don’t go to your doctor – they won’t be able to cure it, and you’ll only pass it on to other people. However, if it persists longer than a few days, phone them for advice.

Of course, there is no sure-fire way to stop people getting sick, but one thing that definitely helps to control outbreaks is if people don’t feel the pressure to be present at work or school when they are unwell.

It’s in nobody’s best interests to have someone suffering from a cold or flu working in a shared environment. This only leads to more people getting sick, and further loss of productivity, as well as the negative effects resulting from employees feeling obliged by their employer to work whilst ill.