Carly Weeks’s Six Tips on How to Avoid the Flu
A kleenex box juxtaposed in front of a green background
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Flu season is in full swing, with endless coughs, sneezes, and sniffling coming from every corner of your newsroom.  

It’s no joke (considering the flu can kill you). But maybe even worse:  It makes an already stressful job that much harder as journalists with weakened immune systems work to meet their deadlines.

In the spirit of trying to get over the flu season, we spoke with Carly Weeks, a health reporter for The Globe and Mail, on how to avoid the flu altogether.

Ask to work remotely 

For a long time there was the idea that you need to tough it out. But employers have become very good in terms of allowing journalists to work remotely because of the Internet. It’s better than sitting in your cubicle, while someone two desks over is hacking away into their keyboard.

If your boss is resistant, let them know that you have multiple obligations, in addition to work, and that you’d feel more comfortable filing remotely while there’s an outbreak in the office. I’ve even filed breaking news from home. But the negative side is that you do lose that interaction and opportunity to share ideas that you get when you’re surrounded by other journalists.

How to survive while sharing appliances 

It’s unrealistic to expect people to change their behaviour so much during flu season. I wouldn’t even necessarily wipe down a keyboard or avoid shaking hands with a source, as much as I’d make sure I don’t touch my face. And a very basic thing, but is actually very effective: Wash your hands. Don’t just thoroughly run them under the water. You have to really get on yourself and lather up and rinse.

You can wipe your phone if you’re worried, because it’s in contact with your fingers and your face. In general, if you’re using your own equipment, I wouldn’t worry as much. But then again, think of all the bacteria-infected objects you’re touching when you’re in the communal kitchen or bathroom.

“Any good health reporter would advocate for alcohol in moderation.”

Things to have at your desk

Hand washing can fall by the wayside when you’re in the middle of a deadline. In absence of soap and water, have some hand sanitizer. Also, have your own water bottle to make sure you’re always hydrated, and bring your own lunch to avoid the germs that come with communal food.

I’m a classic journalist, so I go with hot coffee all day. There are certain people that swear by various vitamins or teas, but really there’s no good evidence. But if you need to have the big guns like chicken soup at your desk, you should be at home, not at work.

Make sure to move a little

Get some exercise to keep your immune system strong. We all know as journalists that finding the time is difficult. But try to step away from your desk when you need a break. Sitting for hours on end is not good for your overall health. So go out for a stroll, or if you need to stay inside, go down to the main lobby or do a couple laps around the newsroom to get your heart rate going.

Don’t be afraid of the flu shot

Getting a flu shot is obviously controversial because we know that it’s not 100 percent effective, but it will reduce the severity of your symptoms. You can also get them for free, pretty much anywhere, like at a Shoppers Drug Mart.

Don’t stay too late at the bar

Any good health reporter would advocate for alcohol in moderation. You can have one or two drinks after a shift with your colleagues, but probably no more than three or four in a sitting…that leads to not getting enough sleep, which is another recipe to make yourself susceptible to illness.

Editor’s Note: Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity

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