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Feature Story


Don't let the rain ruin your work life.

by Ivan Olegario, M.D.

JULY 2011

How many of us remember being told by our mothers, “Huwag kang magpapa-ulan. Magkakasakit ka!” And how many of us continue to believe this old wives’ tale?

While rain, in itself, does not cause illness and disease, we instinctively cover our heads and run for shelter when it begins to drizzle, or wait out a rainstorm instead of braving downpours and flashfloods even if we’re well-protected by an umbrella or raincoat.

And, with good reason. The rainy season brings with it the prevalence of certain diseases. Says Rizzi Marie Besin, a 27-year-old mother and a quality officer at a call center in Quezon City, “ang hirap umiwas sa sakit, especially if you take public transport. Nandiyan ang ulan, tapos kung minsan, lulusong ka pa sa baha. Sa jeepney naman, puwede kang mahawa sa katabi mo.”

Sickness is of great concern to Besin because she only gets her bonus if her attendance record is perfect. “Eh ’pag pumasok naman ako nang may sakit, my officemates treat me like a leper. Nagkakalat daw ako ng germs sa office. Sa bahay naman, baka mahawa ’yung anak ko,” she adds.

According to Dr. Rowena Roselle Blanco-Santos, a company physician in a large bank in Pasay City and a board-certified occupational health physician, “In the workplace, acute respiratory tract infections such as the common cold, bronchitis, and influenza are the most common diseases during this time.” The rainy months begin in June and last until October.

Safe though cooped up

Though not carried by rain waters, these viruses that make people sick and cause respiratory tract infections are transmitted through the air, droplets, or close contact with someone who has them. During the rainy season, people tend to stay indoors and shut their windows, increasing the chances for the passing of the virus from one person to another. Furthermore, the flu virus seems to thrive better in cold temperatures and low relative humidity—the exact scenario in most air-conditioned offices.

First, there is frequent person-to-person contact during meetings, conferences, water-cooler chit-chats, and high traffic breaks in the office pantry. Second, viruses that are left on shared equipment like printers and copiers can be passed on to others. Third, the telephone and the computer keyboard can turn into one of the filthiest things in the office because they are touched repeatedly.

So how do you stay healthy while at work? Dr. Blanco- Santos offers some tips:

Boost your immunity. It seems obvious, but to stay healthy, you have to live healthy. Keep your resistance up and fight viruses by eating a balanced diet, drinking lots of fluids, and getting adequate sleep.

Practice personal hygiene. Use disposable tissue instead of a handkerchief, which can harbor viruses for long periods of time. Dispose of used tissue paper promptly and properly in the waste basket.

Keep your hands clean. They are the most common transmitters of viruses when you rub your eyes, cover your mouth, or run your hands across your nose. Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Take at least 20 seconds to ensure that germs are thoroughly rinsed away. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based gel sanitizer or wipes; keep them handy on your desk or in your bag.

Wash your hands after using frequently handled items in the office, such as copiers, phones, or fax machines. Or, you can use a tissue to handle these. The same goes for bathroom door handles, condiment dispensers in the office pantry, and surprisingly, soap dispensers (which are almost never cleaned). Bring your own liquid soap, if you can.

When you cough or sneeze, do not cover your mouth with your hand. Instead, use a tissue, or use the upper sleeve of your shirt or dress. This way, your hands will not be contaminated by viruses, which can reinfect you or infect others.

To continue reading our story on how to be fit for work, read our HealthToday July issue now out on the newsstands.


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