We're entering into the thick of cold and flu season, and it doesn't take somone who is super germaphobic (remember Jack Nicholson's character, Melvin in As Good As It Gets? He used a FRESH BAR OF SOAP every time he washed his hands!) to be a little uneasy. We don't have to do a Full Melvin, but a little consideration is a lovely thing.
First, the obvious:
IF YOU'RE SICK, STAY HOME. Really. You'll recover faster. You won't infect your co-workers, and when you return to work a newly sick co-worker won't infect you. If you can't return until you've fully recovered, at least stay at home until you're not contagious. (The first few days of a cold are the best days for spreading germs.) If you feel guilty not going to work with a temperature of 102 degrees, you can ask your employer if you can work from home for a couple of days. Please.
COVER YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU COUGH OR SNEEZE. Preferably with a tissue. If you can't, sneeze into your elbow. Honest! Your sweater will get over it, and your bacteria-laden hands won't be grasping the bathroom door, the better to infect unsuspecting healthy people. WASH YOUR HANDS before touching stuff that everybody else has to touch. Seems stupid to have to say it, but I've watched people with streaming eyes and runny noses wipe their noses and punch buttons into the office copier. Do please wash your hands first—or at least use some hand sanitizer.
STAY HOME WHEN YOUR CHILDREN ARE SICK. Yes, it's tough to use your sick days or vacation days to stay home when a little one is coughing or spewing (been there, done that), but when your child care falls apart at the last minute (been there, done that, too) it is manifestly unfair to your co-workers to drag a sick child to your workplace. Your kid probably doesn't enjoy it, either. With luck, the icky season will be short—or maybe it will just feel that way because in being considerate of others, we've also managed to keep ourselves a little healther. A votre sante!
Karen Grigsby Bates is a LA-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).
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is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).