How to Avoid Germs at Work When You Have RA

Stay in tip-top health at work with these easy steps. 

Stacey Feintuch
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For most people, the sniffles are a minor annoyance. And that’s especially true when you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Because RA affects the body’s immune system by attacking its own tissues, you need to be extra vigilant about your health when you have this condition. But, it’s not always easy to avoid germs when you’re on the job, sharing doorknobs, copy machines and indoor space 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. Avoid the office if you can. Spending time away from the office can help reduce stress, thereby keeping you healthy. And staying home from work reduces your exposure to germs. Consider using your vacation or sick days during cold or flu season. If you can’t get the time off, see whether you can work from home.
  2. 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.
  3. Keep your desk clean. Studies show that a desk may boast 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat—which means that 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.
  4. Think before you touch. 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. Handle your hands with care. Keep your hands away from your face to reduce your risk of getting sick. Don’t touch your face or mouth, mindlessly chew on a pen or lick your thumb to turn a page.
  6. Dry dishes with care. 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.
  7. Avoid sick people. 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.
  8. Watch what you eat. 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 co-workers know you have diabetes, you can always play the “it’s bad for my RA” card.
  9. Make water your best friend. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. You’ll promote good health by flushing toxins out of your body
April 2013