Dodge Workplace Germs When You Have Diabetes

When you have diabetes, a cold or the flu can foil your blood sugar control. Avoid the problem with these tips for steering clear of workplace bugs.

Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by
Philip Levy, MD
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For most people, the sniffles are a minor annoyance. But when you have diabetes, catching a cold or the flu can wreak havoc with your blood sugar control. So can a stomach bug that causes vomiting or diarrhea. But it’s not always easy to avoid germs when you’re on the job, sharing doorknobs, copy machines and indoor air with your coworkers. And it doesn’t help that lots of people go to work even when they’re ill: About 40 million workers across the country don’t have paid sick days, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. To the rescue—these tips that help your colleagues keep their germs to themselves:

  1. Step up your disinfecting. Studies show that a desk may boast 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat, which means you may be sharing your workspace with a lot of germs. Most cleaning crews don’t wash desks, so be sure to use disinfectant wipes daily to clean the areas in your workspace that you touch often—phone, keyboard, desk, cabinet handles and doorknob.
  2. Use your own dishes. Sure, you know that using your own utensils, glasses and dishware is a smart move, but did you know that making sure they’re dried thoroughly is key? That’s because moisture breeds germs. And dishes that are put away wet can become contaminated with bacteria.
  3. Encourage coughers and snifflers to e-communicate. Email them or call them rather than visiting their workspace. If you must be in a meeting with them, sit as far away as you can, and, whatever you do, don’t touch anything they touch.
  4. Beware of germ hotspots. They’re the places you and your co-workers tend to touch: the kitchen faucet; microwave, coffee pot and refrigerator door handles; copy and fax machine keypads; and water fountain and vending machine buttons. Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands right after touching.
  5. Wash up to this song. It’s “Happy Birthday,” and you should sing it to yourself twice. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s how long it takes for your hands to get truly clean. And don’t forget to intertwine your fingers and wash beneath your nails.
  6. Just say no . . . to sharing food and drink. The reason is obvious: You have no idea whether they were prepared in a sanitary way. If your coworkers know you have diabetes, you can always play the “it’s bad for my blood sugar” card.
  7. Kick these habits. Chewing your pen, licking your index finger to turn a page, rubbing your eyes, biting your nails—or anything else that puts your hands in close contact with your mouth and nose.
  8. Take a vacation—really. Spending time out of the office can help reduce stress and exposure to germs, thereby keeping you healthy. Consider using your vacation or sick days when a sickness is circulating around the office (such as in the winter, when people have colds or the flu). If you can’t take time off, see whether you can work from home.

You should also talk with your healthcare provider about whether you should get the flu and pneumonia shots.

April 2013