Influenza (the flu) is often debilitating for several days and sometimes life threatening. While you can get the flu anytime, the flu season in the United States is typically defined as in the fall and winter, with peaks in December and February, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that flu activity can continue into May. For a professional truck driver, that can be a serious problem.

Most people, when they get a cough or a cold, will take some over-the-counter cold medicine and head off to work. If the symptoms worsen, or if they develop a fever, they would likely call in sick the next day. That’s not so easy for a trucker, who could be hundreds of miles from home when the brunt of the flu hits.

HOW CAN YOU TELL IF IT’S A COLD OR THE FLU?

Both are respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. While many of the symptoms can be shared by both illnesses, flu symptoms are generally more severe.

Flu symptoms develop and intensify quickly, making driving very uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. If you feel weak and have a fever, chills, body aches and headaches, you might have the flu and should not drive.

ACCOUNTABILITY, NEGLIGENCE AND LEGAL CONSEQUENCES

Flu symptoms and use of medications – even over-the-counter remedies – can mimic drunk driving, with slowed reaction times, dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision. The driver may misjudge distances, turns, and breaking time.

Even sneezing and coughing can be dangerous. When you sneeze, you close your eyes and although it is just for a second or two, the truck could travel 50 feet or more without your attention to the road. When you’re searching for some tissues to catch that runny nose, you’re taking your eyes off the road and a hand off the wheel. You could drift into another lane, or another vehicle.

It is the CDL drivers’ responsibility to cease driving if they are unable to safely maintain control of the vehicle. Failure to do so could result in a negligence charge and even loss of their CDL and livelihood.

PREVENTION IS THE BEST MEDICINE

Last year was one of the worst on record, with the highest flu-related death toll in recorded history. Here are some tips to prevent you from getting the flu:

  1. Wash your hands often.
  2. Disinfect your cell phone daily.
  3. Avoid being around people who are sick.
  4. Vacuum and disinfect your cab once a week.
  5. Eat nutritious foods, especially those high in vitamins and antioxidants.
  6. Get a flu shot.

If you haven’t already been vaccinated this year, talk to your primary care provider today about getting one soon. Free flu shots are also available at many large pharmacy chains and supermarkets.

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