Business of Well-being

Office Health Through Cold and Flu Season

The cold and flu season is right around the corner.  Expect sneezes, sniffling and snot from the coworker who just borrowed your stapler.  In an ideal world, people would not show up to work sick.  But with the economy the way it is and people lax to miss work for fear of losing a paycheck or losing their job, we have to protect ourselves instead.

Here are some tips to keep you healthy in the work place this time of year:

Let's start with the basics. Our mothers were right; hand washing can protect you from germs.  Make sure you wash your hands with soap and hot water and get between your fingers and under your fingernails.  

I know a lot of office staff that keep hand sanitizer at their desks and disinfectant wipes close by in case you are covering someone else's phone or using their supplies.  Don't get too germ-adverse though, because we do build up our immune system by being around germs.  In between hand washing, avoid touching your face and eyes too.

Taking a multivitamin containing extra vitamin C and Zinc has been shown to help prevent colds and speed their recovery time.  Some people mega dose on Vitamin C, but we can only absorb a certain amount at a time (opinions vary on how much), so if you are going to take extra vitamin C, spread out the dose.  

Too much vitamin C can cause loosen bowels and gas, which is a good hint that you've had too much. I personally am a big fan of Airborne. I find it works for me and is worth a shot for you too.

Herbs like Echinacea and Golden Seal have properties that can help speed healing of colds and flu.  Garlic is another helpful herb and can be taken in your food or bought in a "de-smelled" supplement form like Kyolic.  There are numerous supplement formulas on the market to boost your immune system; I recommend trying some and seeing what you like best.

Homeopathics are a safe and easy way to try to stave off illness.  Homeopathy works on the principle of "like cures like" and you decide on the remedy based on a combination of very specific symptoms like: Is your nose stuffy on just the right side?  Does your headache get better when you drink cold water?  Are you craving salt?  

Is your face flushed?  Are you cranky and want to be left alone?  Answering a series of questions such as those can guide you to the right single remedy. Combination remedies are also readily available and tend to mingle the most common remedies for the ailment.  There are remedies simply named Cold and Flu and there is an effective combination called oscillococcinum, which has worked for me in the past.  You can inquire in your favorite health food store or contact a trained professional.

Keep drinking that water!  Not only should we have a large amount of water for health in general, but it's even more important when we are sick.  Water can help thin out that mucous and keep our noses and lungs clear. Tea, broth and juice are good too!

We have enormous power in our mind.  I fully believe that we can talk ourselves in and out of being sick.  If you are afraid of every germ and sure that so and so from you office is infecting you, chances are you are going to catch it.  Our attitude and what we say in our minds strongly effects what happens in our bodies.  Repeating to yourself that you are healthy and well or that your immune system is strong can actually prevent you from catching the latest thing and boost your defenses.

De-stress yourself!  So much research has been done on the effects of stress on the immune system.  And let's be clear, it's not so much the stress, it's your reaction to the stress.  If you can take things in stride and make sure you are allowing yourself some downtime to process all of what is happening in your life, you can keep that immune system healthier.

I recommend what are called "minis". They are small meditations that invoke the relaxation response as opposed to the stress response. On the inhale say in your mind "I am" and on the exhale say "at peace" or "pure love" or "pure joy" or "truly well". You get the idea. This allows the body to relax as you concentrate on both the breath and the words and keeps other thoughts from intruding. If thoughts do penetrate, just acknowledge and dismiss them without judgment.

Try to be as happy as you can.  I've observed people who are always sick, you know them; they catch everything that comes around.  And they always try to blame someone for "getting them sick".  I've noticed that these folks more often than not are basically unhappy people.  

Perhaps they don't like their jobs, maybe their marriage is less than ideal, could be some depression.  Whatever the source of the unhappiness is, I think that if they can be happier, they will also be healthier.  Illness is very often used as excuse to not face something and for someone that is "always sick"; I'd ask them to examine what else is going on in their lives.  It's sometimes a really hard question to ask, but worth the work if you want to stay healthy and have a long and productive life.

Now, what about western medicine, what does it have to offer at this time of year?  Not much frankly.  Right now people are rushing to get their flu shots.  These are recommended for older adults, children and people with compromised immune systems. Every year the formula changes in an effort to battle the virus of the year.  

Some people have found the flu shot makes them sick, and others get the flu anyway. I have read numerous reports that the flu shot increases the risk for Alzheimer's disease from the additives like mercury and aluminum which are contained in the vaccine.  

I've also seen evidence that the vaccine doesn't do anything at all.  Remember that the flu shot is a combination of many chemical and natural compounds, some of which can have side effects.  I'm not suggesting you skip the shot, just be informed before you make any medical or natural health choice.

Antibiotics are another thing that just isn't going to help you get rid of that cold.  A cold is caused by a virus, antibiotics work on bacteria.  So, if it develops into an upper respiratory infection or sinus infection that would be the time to take some antibiotics. Some doctors recommend flu anti-virals, which are effective if taken at the first signs of being sick (within the first two days).  

It can decrease the length of the flu by 1 or 2 days and makes you less contagious to others according to the CDC website.  These specific drugs will not work on a cold, just the flu. And remember, all the negative effects that you get when you have a cold, the sneezing, runny nose, coughing?  

That is the body's effort to get the bad stuff out.  Try not to repress the symptoms too much or it may prolong the illness.  But if you can, get plenty of rest and take the time off work!I hope you all make it through the year healthy, well and disease free. But if you do happen to catch something, I hope these natural health hints make it an easier time for you. Good luck and good health!

About The Author

Dr. Kathy Gruver PhD, author of The Alternative Medicine Cabinet, has been featured as an expert in countless publications and has written dozens of health and wellness articles. She has appeared as a guest on over 50 radio shows and has done over 40 educational lectures around the country. For more information and free health tips and resources go to

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→