If you’re among the many gainfully employed Americans who blame work for their poor health, it turns out you might be on to something. Some doctors say the culprit of all the sniffles, sneezes and coughs plaguing businesses during the hot, steamy summer months is the lowly office cubicle.
According to The Times of India, doctors in urban areas of the country are seeing an increase in the number of patients with “Cubicle Cold” a phenomena plaguing people who spend prolonged periods of time working in an air conditionined office. Unlike the colds and flus that make their rounds during fall and winter months, Cubicle Cold cases are most common in the summertime, when businesses turn their thermostats down to 64 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit to ward off hot, humid temps outdoors. In India, the monsoon season also plays a role, as office workers arrive to work wet from the pouring rain and then sit in damp clothing all day.
“People generally complain of symptoms like blocked and stuffy noses in their offices. Few people also get persistent sneezing and dry cough for a few weeks to a month. In 90 percent of cases, these people say that they work in a cold air conditioned environment for prolonged hours. Those who already have the allergenic tendency have more severe symptoms like watering of eyes and headaches,” ear, nose and throat consultant Dr. Ritu Sheth told the Times.
There are several ways to prevent Cubicle Colds, according to the Times. ENT surgeon Dr. Rajeev Nerurkar and Dr. Sheth offered the following tips:
- Eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamins A, E and C (think dark, leafy greens; citrus fruits; broccoli; carrots; sweet potatoes…eat a variety of colors)
- Avoid cold beverages and oily or spicy foods
- Avoid wearing wet or damp clothing in the office
- Avoid dust and pollution
Employers can reduce the risk of Cubicle Colds by creating a healthier office environment. Dr. Nerurkar and Dr. Sheth offered the following suggestions:
- Set the air conditioner to about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, rather then at too cool temperatures.
- Make sure air conditioning vents and filters are cleaned on a regular basis.
- If possible, open windows periodically to allow fresh air to circulate in the office.
If your cubicle is surrounded by victims of Cubicle Colds, there’s still hope that you can ward it off so it doesn’t disrupt that beach trip you have planned. According to the CDC and the Mother Nature Network, there are some basic preventative measures you can take to stay healthy:
- Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face (especially your eyes, nose and mouth) frequently while at work.
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent spreading germs and make sure to wash your hands afterward.
- Make sure to get an annual flu shot
- Try to avoid any sick people in your office and make sure to wash your hands after coming into contact with through things like handshakes, pressing copier buttons or touching door handles.
- Eat a balanced diet
- Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day to keep your body healthy and strong
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