(ARA) – Health officials emphasize that Americans should stay home from work when they are sick, but for many, the decision isn’t that easy.

While staying home from work to rest, recover and avoid infecting coworkers makes sense to most people, other factors come into play. One in five Americans report feeling pressure to go to work when sick, and one in three Americans say they would not get paid when taking a sick day, according to a recent survey conducted by HALLS, America’s number one selling cough drop.

With those numbers in mind, and added pressure from a lagging economy, it’s not surprising that 44 percent of the survey’s respondents would consider going to work with a fever and 32 percent said they would go to work no matter how sick they are.

Staying home sick is never an easy decision, especially if some of these added pressures apply. The best way to avoid staying home – and protect your health – is to take precautions to help you stay healthy. Here are a few tips to help you stay well and working this flu season and beyond:

* Get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot each year is the most important step you can take to protect yourself against seasonal influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

* Wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds — about the time it takes to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

* Keep your desk stocked. Keep hand sanitizer for disinfecting when you can’t get to the sink to wash your hands. Keep lotion handy to avoid cracking skin that can result from frequent hand washing and disinfecting.

* Disinfect common surfaces. By frequently using a disinfectant on surfaces that experience frequent contact with multiple people, you can prevent the spread of germs. This may include shared desks, phones, doorknobs and computer keyboards.

* Practice healthy habits. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and regular exercise can help boost your immune system to ward off sickness. Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day to help flush toxins from your system. Get the proper amount of sleep – eight to nine hours for many people – to also help keep your immune system functioning at peak capacity.

* Keep things fresh. Keeping rooms properly ventilated in the winter can be challenging and germs can circulate more easily indoors, so the more time you spend outside, the less you’ll be exposed to other people’s germs. Getting outside can also improve your mood and reduce stress, which helps in fighting off sickness.

* Stock up on the essentials in the event you get sick. Make sure you’re prepared by having cough drops, tissues, soap, hand sanitizer, vitamins and fever reducer while you’re still healthy.

If you do get sick, it’s best to stay home, rest and recover, if possible, to prevent spreading the illness to your coworkers and expedite your recovery. But your most prudent course of action is to take preventative action to avoid becoming sick in the first place.

For more tips on staying healthy, visit www.gethalls.com/wellness_center.aspx.