When cold and flu season arrives, some of us may want to retreat to our homes and avoid contact with others. After all, according to the CDC, the flu affects more than 9 million people, and possibly as many as 41 million people, annually.
The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. For some people, it can be serious and even life-threatening. Although the flu can be detected all year long in the United States, the flu typically circulates in the fall and winter. October is usually when the flu season tends to begin and can last until sometime in May, with the peak months being December through March, according to the CDC.
What is the Cost of the Annual Flu Season
The estimated cost of the flu is substantial. According to a study published in the medical journal “Vaccine”, the estimates are as follows:
- 3.1 million hospitalized days
- 31.4 million outpatient visits
- Direct medical costs averaged $10.4 billion annually
- Projected lost earnings due to illness and loss of life amounted to $16.3 billion
- U.S. employees miss up to 111 million workdays annually because of the flu
Steps to Reduce the Spread of the Flu
While completely stopping the spread of the flu is not viable, reducing transmission is important for companies. Taking the steps below can greatly reduce the loss of productivity and minimize the financial impact the flu season can have on businesses, whether big or small.
Addressing your air quality is one of the best ways to keep the flu from spreading in the office environment or at home:
- Keep your home or office well-ventilated. As long as the outdoor air quality in your area is good and free from pollen or pollution (you can easily check pollen count for your location), plus it’s not too chilly outside, there’s nothing wrong with opening a window to let some fresh air in. You can also use a box fan to circulate air or add a whole house fan for even better circulation.
- Humidify your indoor air. When the temperature dips outside, which coincides with flu season, we start to turn up our thermostats for warmth. When we turn up the heat, we can also reduce the humidity in the building, which can increase the risk of spreading germs. Mitigate the survival and spread of viruses by keeping humidity levels between 40 and 60 percent in your home. There are many room humidifiers available for purchase, but your furnace could also have a humidifying function.
- Maintain an adequate temperature indoors. The dramatic decrease in temperature from summer to fall is known to reduce our immune system’s ability to fight off infectious illnesses. Keep an eye on your thermostat, and make sure your home is at a comfortable temperature so your body temperature doesn’t drop. It’s also a good idea to get out those thick sweaters and coats and keep yourself warm when you go outdoors.
- Use a portable air purifier to keep bacteria and viruses at bay. A portable, high-quality air purifier strategically placed in your home or office can make a big difference in air quality. It is important to make sure the Portable Air Purifier has the newest and best technology to ensure the removal of germs floating through the air. The newest and best air purifiers include UVC lamps and H-13 HEPA filters. Ultraviolet-C, or UVC, lamps have been shown to reduce bacteria, mold, fungi, and other germs from the air. Plus, a high-quality air purifier with an H-13 HEPA filter can capture 99.97 percent of 0.3-micron particles, including dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and viruses. Both of these technologies can lead to a lower spread of illness in the home and workplace.
- Install an in-duct air purifier to prevent the circulation of germs. An in-duct air purifier deploys powerful UVC technology to reduce bacteria, mold, fungi, and other germs, keeping these irritants from circulating through the office or home. More advanced in-duct air purifiers will also include carbon filters and PCO technology to remove odors and VOCs for better peace of mind.
- For businesses specifically, allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their job. Provide employees with the freedom to choose to stay home if they or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of the flu. Some employees feel bound to come into the office when they are sick and therefore expose other employees and potentially cause a slew of additional absences.
Beyond these air quality tips, we also recommend washing hands frequently, maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of antioxidants, staying away from those who exhibit flu symptoms, exercising regularly, encouraging others to get a yearly flu vaccine, especially if they are at high risk, and disinfecting surfaces often.
If you have questions about Air Health’s portable air purifiers or in-duct air purifiers, please feel free to contact us anytime.