6 ways for nurses to take care of themselves during flu season
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Many hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country are now requiring their employees to obtain the flu vaccine every year or face termination. While this does offer some protection against the flu, remember, it doesn’t provide all protection! The flu shot is one aspect of prevention.
Here are some practical tips to stay at the top of your flu-prevention game!
- Eat well. Eat natural, nutrient-rich food. If all you eat are Doritos and chicken nuggets, and all you drink are cans of Mountain Dew and Red Bull, your body is not getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep your immune system healthy to fight off various infections. Also, make sure you are staying hydrated!
- Rest well. ‘Tis the season for overtime! Make sure that the downtime you actually do get is restful and peaceful. Spend quality time with loved ones, not worrying or talking about work. Get quality rest and maximize your time off.
- Travel well. If you’re going to be traveling, make sure you keep yourself very hydrated and boost your vitamins! You can take things like Airborne or Zicam if you know you’re going to be on an airplane, bus or train. Confined spaces with a large number of people can lead to getting sick.
- Prepare well. If you take vitamins or essential oils (which I always recommend!), be vigilant. Keep tissues in your car or purse, as well as hand sanitizer. Use a humidifier when you are sleeping to help ease symptoms, but make sure to clean it well. (Here’s an article from the Mayo Clinic about benefits and maintenance!) If you start to feel something coming on, pump the brakes and rest. Fluids, rest, hydration and vitamins are always a good idea when you start to feel under the weather.
- Clean well. Clean your cell phone, your bathroom, your kitchen, etc., regularly. If you get sick, make sure you or a family member does this more frequently. Also, make sure to toss your toothbrush if you come down with something. Always get a fresh toothbrush after an illness.
- Prevent transmission well. In addition to overtime, it’s the season for family meals and potlucks! We all know nurses are great at washing their hands, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is as awesome. Be the Hand Washing Enforcer! After all, you are the nurse in the family. Pre-apologize when you arrive for being the Hand Washing Enforcer and remind people if they forget. Similarly, if you notice people are coughing into their hands and touching food, not washing their hands after coughing into them, or only rinsing their hands or not using soapy water for more than 25 seconds, speak up! Encourage people to cough into a tissue or in the bend of their arm and then wash their hands well. Also, if someone is a little under the weather but tries to prepare food—don’t let them!
What other practical tips do you have for this flu season?
Kati Kleber BSN, RN CCRN is a a nationally certified critical care nurse located in Charlotte, NC. She is the Nurse Advisor and Editorial Director of the #ProtectNurses initiative, and will be guiding the content we curate, create, and share back with you. Kleber, aka Nurse Eyeroll, is a popular blogger, the voice behind the wildly successful #ProTips series, and a frequent speaker on nursing leadership. You can buy her book "Becoming Nursey" at nurseeyeroll.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other sites. She also has two more books in the works, which will be published by the American Nurses Association and on shelves Feb. 2016!
By Kati Kleber BSN, RN