Friday, March 30, 2012

Flu Fridays: Could your job put you at risk for the flu?

It's Flu Friday, and we want to know: Are you sick of your job? Or is your job making you sick?

A new study looked at the jobs of people who were hospitalized with the flu during the 2009–2010 flu season. What researchers found was surprising: People who worked in some fields were more likely to get a very bad case of the flu than people who worked other types of jobs.

What kind of jobs were related to workers having a serious case of the flu? At the top of the list were health workers. This wasn't breaking news, because nurses, doctors and other health workers have to deal directly with sick people. But some other surprising jobs made the list:

  • Transportation and warehouse workers: 1.5 times more likely than the average worker to get serious flu.
  • Administrative support and waste management workers: 1.5 times more likely.
  • Hotel and restaurant workers: 1.3 times more likely.
  • Retail workers: 1.1 times more likely.

The study found that other jobs — such as teachers and construction workers —  were less likely than the average U.S. worker to get sent to the hospital from a serious case of the flu. (That may surprise any teacher who has had to deal with lots of sick students!)

But if this news makes you want to quit your job, not so fast!  First off, the study found that in general, people with jobs landed in the hospital a lot less often than people who didn't work at all. So having a job — and a regular paycheck — is generally a good thing for your health, according to the study.

Plus, the study found other things could have increased people's risk for getting very sick with the flu aside from their job. For example, researchers found that more than 30 percent of people who worked in the hotel and restaurant industry were smokers — and smoking can really increase your chances of having serious complications if you get the flu. Other things that made people more likely to get really sick from flu included having a chronic disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and not having a regular place to go for health care, such as a doctor or clinic that you go to every time you get sick.

So what does it all mean? No matter what kind of job you have (or want to have), this new study doesn't change the fact that you can do a lot of things to protect yourself from a bad case of the flu.

Our top tips:
  • Get a seasonal flu shot every year.
  • Wash your hands and practice good hygiene.
  • In general, keep yourself as healthy as possible to prevent things like diabetes and heart disease.
  • If you smoke, quit smoking.
  • If you get sick, see your doctor.
  • If you get the flu, stay home from work. You'll get better faster and you won't spread the flu to your coworkers!

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