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Cold and flu season

Don't let the cold and flu season weaken your organization’s operations by keeping key personnel at home. When employees and volunteers are unable to come in due to the flu or a cold, it could force others with less experience and knowledge to temporarily perform duties and make decisions that they are not qualified to handle. This has the possibility of impacting the overall safety and effectiveness of your organization. Have a preventative action plan in place to help decrease the likelihood that the cold or flu will infect your organization.

How Colds and Influenza Spread

Influenza viruses and colds are spread by droplets that are produced from coughing, sneezing, and talking. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that the flu can spread to others from up to 6 feet away and may be able to infect others up to one day before symptoms occur and seven days after becoming sick. It is in your organization’s best interest to encourage employees and volunteers that are sick to stay home to avoid spreading illnesses to others.

How to Help Prevent Colds and Influenza

It is recommended to remind your staff members about good health practices and encourage them to consult their health professionals about ways to remain healthy. Many organizations host annual flu shot clinics to help prevent the flu from infecting their people and operations. To start one at your location, work with your local pharmacies and clinics to see if this option is available in your area.

If someone is unable to get an influenza vaccination, there are other ways they can reduce their exposure to illnesses. The CDC recommends:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Illness is often contracted when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, stay home and keep your distance from others to help protect them from getting sick too. Colds and flu are the most contagious diseases in gathering areas and workplaces.

  • Cover your mouth and nose. Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of it in a waste basket. When you are unable to use a tissue, cover your mouth and nose by coughing or sneezing into the sleeve area of your elbow instead of your hands.

  • Wash your hands often, especially after coughing and sneezing.

    • Use soap with warm running water and rub hands vigorously together for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Also, wash the back of hands, fingernails, wrists and between fingers.

    • Rinse and dry. Consider using disposable paper towels instead of a cloth hand towel.

  • Use alcohol-based gels and wipes to help fight the spread of germs. Clean and wipe down shared surfaces such as countertops, keyboards, phones, handles and door knobs. It is a great idea to consider installing hand sanitizer stations that are readily available for routine use.

  • Stay rested and drink liquids to stay hydrated.

Treating Colds and Influenza

If you or someone else is experiencing flu like symptoms it is best to stay away from others except for seeking medical care and getting life necessities. Always remember to drink plenty of water and get rest. If you are at high risk for developing flu related complications or are worried about your illness, contact your doctor immediately. With proper treatment, you can shorten the time you are sick and help prevent spreading the flu virus to others. The CDC recommends that you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to help prevent spreading the virus to others.

Child Care Positions

Roles that involve working with children are one of the most challenging environments to prevent the spread of illnesses. If you work at a school, day care, or nursery you will need to take some extra steps to help prevent the illness at your organization:

  • During the orientation process, inform parents their child will be required to go home if they become sick. Also, recommend that all children receive a flu shot.

  • Always contact the parents of a sick child immediately if you have a child in your organization experiencing cold or flu like symptoms.

  • Make it a rule that everyone washes or sanitizes their hands after sneezing or coughing.

  • Remember to always sanitize anything that is used throughout the day such as toys and workstations.

  • Administrators should have a readily available list of substitute volunteers or employees if someone must call in sick.

Additional Resources

For additional information, visit the CDC's website or contact your local county health department.

If you have additional questions, or need help, call Risk Control Central at (800) 554-2642, (option 4) ext. 5213, or email