Preventing Sick Days & Overcoming Winter Blues

Naturopathic Medicine approaches

Baby its cold outside!

As the New Year kicks into gear and the holiday season seems like a distant memory, many of us consider hibernating in order to survive the winter. However, did you know that staying indoors for long periods is harmful for your health, both physically and mentally?

It’s not surprising that during the months of January and February many employees call in sick due to the cold and flu. The flu virus is contagious one day before any symptoms exist. This means even before you begin to show symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or runny nose, you may be exposing others in your workplace to the virus. Nevertheless, there are things employers and employees can do to decrease the risk of viral transmission and reduce a number of sick days.

1. Encourage regular hand washing and provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer at all common areas such as office entrances, lunchrooms and washroom exits.

2. Hydrate! Whether it’s water or a hot herbal tea – lemon ginger is my recommendation – both will help flush out toxins from the body. This will help to boost your immune system, preventing you from contracting the virus.

3. Employers can ensure a functioning humidifier is in place. Bacteria and viruses harbor in dry environments so it’s important to keep workplace air moist.

4. Provide moisturizing creams in the work place. This prevents skin from drying out, decreasing the susceptibility of carrying germs on the skin.

5. Get outside and enjoy the weather. It’s true, the air quality inside your workplace is worse than the outdoors. If you think about it the air inside is dry recycled air that is constantly being shared between you and your co-workers. Go for a quick walk outside during your lunch hour or crack open a window for just five minutes. It gets your lungs pumping in fresh clean air, preventing germs from accumulating in the lungs and decreasing your risk for pneumonia and bronchitis.

Beyond the flu another common reason for increased sick days during the winter is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Also, known as the “winter blues”, SAD is a form of depression that occurs in the fall or winter due to lack of sunlight and exposure to the outdoors. To help prevent the occurrence of SAD employers should encourage all employees to get outdoors during work breaks, open up the office blinds and let in sunlight. Also, keep your employees happy and active during these cold dark months. I encourage all employers to organize wellness days focusing on workshops that promote a healthy working environment. For example, have a 15 minute yoga class, organize a healthy lunch potluck or skating night. Additionally, individuals should speak to their Naturopathic Doctor about supplementing with Vitamin D to help boost your immune system, mood and overall health.

Kajal Chohan is a registered Naturopathic Doctor who grew up in the Emery Village neighborhood and is currently practicing in the nearby area. She is available for lunch & learns, seminars, workshops and provides corporate wellness for your local business. She is also available for in-office and home visits. For more information please call (647) 330-5258 or email her at