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Updated 07 August 2017

5 health conditions you can pick up at the office

We spend a considerable amount of time in the office every week, which makes it easy for vulnerable employees to fall prey to germs.

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The workplace is an easy place for germs to spread, and the smaller and more overcrowded the premises, the easier it is to get sick. 

“The size of an office space in addition to the number of employees plays a role in the spread of illnesses in the workplace,” says independent registered practitioner, Dr Aaseema Mugjenkar. “The more confined and crowded the work place is, the easier the spread of infection.”

“Ventilation also plays a role – having enough open windows helps maintain a good airflow generated through a specific area, so that the clean air may replace the ‘virus-containing’ air,” Dr Mugjenkar adds.

Here are five common illnesses and conditions you can pick up at the office:

1. Backache

Your bones, muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments work together to carry your body weight, as well as any extra load that you may add. Many things can cause backache, such as poor posture at your desk, a pinched nerve, bending awkwardly, or lifting a heavy object without the proper support.

Slouching at your work desk without taking enough breaks, lifting an object that is more than 20% your body weight, or bending incorrectly (bending at your waist and not using your legs) could result in back pain.

Back pain can occur at any point along the spine. According to a Health24 article strains, sprains, and minor injuries generally don't involve any serious or permanent damage to the back. The pain mostly goes away after a few days. If the problem persists or if the pain becomes unbearable, expert medical attention is needed.

Regular exercise, a healthy and balanced diet and maintaining a good body weight may lower your risk of developing back pain. The pain can also be managed with anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.

workplace health

2. Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common headache among teens and adults. Such headaches can be a result of eye strain – especially when sitting for an extended period of time in front of a computer screen.

Headaches are also associated with tension build-up or muscle spasms in the neck, jaw, face, and head. 

Fortunately headaches are manageable with over-the-counter painkillers, but if they persist, it's advisable to see a doctor.

workplace health

3. Stress-related conditions

For many people, stress is a built-in part of their workday. High levels of job stress may increase the amount of sick leave taken, a study suggests. Demanding and high-stress jobs can put your mental health at risk.

Stress can have physical effects on the body, such as backache, headaches, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems. Stress can also be linked to psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, poor concentration and poor decision-making.

"Stress causes many health conditions, such as hypertensive disease (high blood pressure) which can lead to heart disease," says Dr Mugjenkar.

"Bad habits caused by stress, such as constant eating, can lead to obesity and diabetes."

workplace health

4. Viral influenza

Closed environments are a breeding ground for the flu virus. Air-conditioned office spaces are prone to outbreaks of flu that run their course over a number of weeks.

But even though you may not come into direct contact with someone who has the flu, indirect contact such as touching office equipment or doorknobs and then touching your mouth or your nose increases your chances of contracting this viral illness, says Dr Mugjenkar.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is an incubation period before symptoms of common illnesses such as the flu appear, during which time people can already be contagious.

"Sometimes people can infect others even before they are present with symptoms,” adds Dr Mugjenkar.

It is recommended that you only return to the office 24 hours after your symptoms clear to ensure that you are no longer contagious.

workplace health

5. Gastroenteritis

Also known as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis can spread very quickly from one person to the next, especially if good hand hygiene is not practised.

The stomach flu can be contracted by breathing in contaminated air or drinking contaminated water. It can also be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects, especially if an infected person does not wash their hands.

“In the work place, hand washing is extremely important,” Dr Mugjenkar explains.

“If proper hand washing is not executed after using the toilet and before eating, or if you buy food which has not been prepared properly, it is easy to contract the virus.”

workplace health

Images provided by iStock.

 
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