10 Things to Put in Your Desk Before Cold and Flu Season

You may still be basking in the summer sunshine, but as soon as those little germ incubators called children go back to school, it’s time to plan for cold and flu season.  There is a lot you can do to stay healthy in the fall, like exercising every day to boost your immune system, cutting back on treats and alcohol, and getting to bed earlier.  But if you start to feel crummy in the office, here are ten things you should have on hand to attack the illness early and help you make it to the end of the day.

1. Disinfecting wipes  

Nasty flu and cold viruses can linger up to a week on keyboards, the copy machine, and your shared office stapler.  Therefore, sanitizing is crucial.  Disposable wipes, used during cold season, can reduce the spread of infection, and kill influenza and cold viruses, if the cleaner is rated for these germs and is left on for at least three to five minutes.  Pick up a container of environmentally safe disinfecting wipes and quickly and easily attack those germs on your office surfaces. 

2. Hand sanitizer

Along with your surface wipes, don’t forget to add a pump bottle of hand sanitizer.  Share generously!

3. A box of tissues

And no; we don’t mean the virus-infected tissues reportedly designed to make you sick when you want a day off (this turned out to be an urban myth!).  Just be careful with those anti-viral and lotion-coated nose hankies; if allergic, you could get a rashy mustache to sport with your red nose!

4. A tube of cold-suppressing vitamin supplements

When sipped at the first sign of raspy, sore throat or sniffle, these water-soluble tablets may help thwart or lessen that feverish gift from your cubemate.  Many of the ingredients like vitamins C, D, zinc,  echinacea, quercetin, and astragalus* have some research backing up their immune-supporting properties. Anecdotally, some travelers say they won’t be caught on a plane without having swallowed a shot before, during, and after.  

5. Cough drops

Nothing is more embarrassing than a coughing fit in the middle of a meeting.  Keep some individually wrapped lozenges, preferably in quiet, waxed paper, so you do not crackle your remedy to your colleagues!  

6. Herbal teas

The best teas for a cold or flu are the ones you like, since consuming plenty of liquids is essential to stave off a cold. Try turmeric, which is anti-inflammatory, non-caffeinated blends with echinacea (an immune booster), chamomile, green tea, and ginger, which can stimulate the immune system and help with nausea.  Elderberry, as a tea or a syrup, has been shown in studies to lessen the effects of cold and flu symptoms compared with a placebo. 

7. Select vitamins

Companies that offer a little complimentary apothecary in the breakroom signal their support for natural wellness!  If yours doesn’t, stock some deodorized garlic (anti-viral and anti-bacterial), zinc* (some studies have found it may reduce the length of a cold by as much as 50%), vitamin C, and vitamin D (preventative) to take or share as the need arises.  

 8. Face mask 

Since face masks are the new and trendy thing to wear on buses and planes, it wouldn’t hurt to tuck one in your drawer.  If you think you might be contagious, go ahead and put one on or at least remember to cough and sneeze into your sleeve, especially if you have an immune-compromised co-worker.   

9. Cold medicines  

While you might think to pop a pill for relief at the first sign of illness, Dr. Lili Lustig, a family medicine doctor at Cleveland Clinicsays: “It’s best to minimize the medications you take to treat cold symptoms. Use the smallest amount for the shortest time-frame possible.”  In fact, there is not a lot of evidence that cough medicines really help, and for some, cold medicines can have harmful side effects.  Choose drugs that will respond to a minimum of symptoms, like an antihistamine for your runny nose or a pain reliever for a headache.  A saline spray can work as well as a decongestant without the sleeplessness and potential rise in blood pressure.

10. A water bottle

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!  Sugarless, clear liquids like broth or tea (sorry, no alcohol!), are good alternatives to help flush out byproducts of the illness, detox your liver, and relieve congestion. 

Obviously, as soon as the clock strikes five, get out of the office and head straight home to bed.  Drink plenty of fluids and order-in some delicious,spicy chicken pho because hot soup and chili peppers have been shown to help clear a stuffy nose.  Obviously, we can’t promise that any one of these tips will keep you healthy all winter long, but having these helpful preventatives on hand before cold and flu season begins, means you can get the jump on that nasty bug before it lays you low!

Note: *Do not take Astragalus if you are pregnant or nursing.  Though the vitamins and herbs described above are commonly used for colds and flu, using supplements improperly can be harmful. Taking a combination of supplements, using these products together with medicine, or substituting them in place of prescribed drugs, could lead to adverse, even life-threatening, results.  Be sure to consult with a health care professional about all the supplements that you use, especially if you have health conditions or if you have concerns about any of the supplements mentioned above.