It’s that time again – cold and flu season. Catching a cold or flu (influenza) while on the road sucks, big time. Trucking isn’t exactly a job where you traditionally call in sick to work. In most instances, drivers push through a common cold or mild flu.
Drivers need to be careful and monitor their condition. People with pre-existing conditions or who come down with a severe case of the flu can have complications which can lead to additional respiratory problems.
Prevention is Important
The best way to combat cold and flu is through prevention. Taking a few simple steps can reduce your risk and reduce the number of times you have to deal with a cold or flu while on the road.
Diet – Eating properly keeps you healthy and helps your immune system.
Wash your hands – Washing your hands regularly will reduce your chance of catching a communicable illness. Money, door handles, store counters etc have lots of people touching them. Keeping some hand sanitizer in your truck will allow to quickly clean your hands a couple times throughout the day.
Wipe down your steering wheel – You don’t need to be paranoid or weird about sanitation but if your hands touch something all day you might want to try to keep it clean.
Flu Shot – Some people get a flu shot others don’t. It’s a personal choice.
You Get Sick on the Road
There’s nothing that cures a cold, or flu; it just takes time for your immune system to do its thing and fight it off. Of course, if your symptoms become severe you should see a doctor. Influenza can become severe enough to be life-threatening.
In most cases, it’s not advisable to take cold medication while on the road. Those warnings to not operate equipment are serious. Even daytime meds can adversely affect your ability to safely operate your truck. There are things you can do if and when you’re sick and on the road.
Talk to your dispatch. Fatigue, weakness and a general lack of concentration are common symptoms. You may not be able to perform all of your regular daily duties and depending on the severity of these symptoms you may not be fit to drive. Safety is our primary concern at Len Dubois Trucking so we ask that our drivers keep this in mind when dealing with a cold or flu over the road.
Stay hydrated. We all know about the rule to drink plenty of fluids when we have the flu, but did you know the same rule applies for a cold? Drinking plenty of fluids, water or fruit juice, will keep your body hydrated. Fun body fact: when your body produces mucus it uses up your body’s moisture. Getting extra fluids will thin out mucus and make it easier to blow or cough out. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume while sick, as they can be dehydrating.
Plan on shutting down early. Generally, when we are sick we feel worse as the day progresses and as the sun slowly sinks beneath the horizon all we want to do is curl up in a ball and die. There are a few key reasons for this. One, during the day we have a lot of distractions and less time to focus on how crummy we feel. When night hits and you no longer have to deal with heavy traffic, deliveries, shippers/receivers, and the rest of your long daily task list you have more time to focus on your symptoms. Second, our immune system goes into overdrive at night and while we have to respect that it is healing us, it will make our symptoms worse in the process. The symptoms aren’t the illness; it’s actually your body fighting the virus. Getting as much rest as possible will help us heal faster, so plan on shorter days when you are sick so that you can get some much-needed rest.
Turn up the heat. Mothers all over the world have known this for years, chicken soup and hot tea can ease your symptoms. Why? As the warmth moves down your throat it helps loosen mucus, making it easier to cough up, also as you lean in to take a sip of these warm beverages the steam you breathe in helps loosen the mucus in your sinuses, therefore, making it easier to blow your nose. Taking a hot shower will help in the same way, it will also help with those aches and pains.
Ibuprofen – Helps to reduce inflammation, aches & pains, and fever reduction.
When you’re sick on the road know your limits and don’t push too hard. Truck drivers by nature are independent and hard workers. We want to get the job done. The symptoms of cold and flu have a detrimental effect on your body which means you’re not at your prime. Safety always comes first and if you need to rest, then rest.