You may already know a few ways to avoid getting sick—wash your hands, get enough sleep, stay hydrated. These are important —but there are others you may not have thought of. Nurses are always in the “sick” season. We spend more time indoors. We spend more time in the company of sick individuals. We create the perfect environment for those wonderful microscopic mortal enemies responsible for initiating illness.

So here are a few worthwhile tips on how to stave off illness.
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  1. Wash your hands. 

This one always amazes me. For my nurses, this means washing your hands obsessively outside of work, also. Don’t reserve the clean hands just for clocking in.  And don’t even think of biting your nails. Unless you’re constantly washing your hands (and your phone and your keyboard), your fingers are probably covered in germs that can infect your portal entries, like your eyes, nose, and throat, says New York-based doctor Louis J. Morledge, MD. Plus, germs build up under your nails, and biting them is a surefire way to let bacteria into your body.

  1. Dress appropriately

Just because your car is parked in a covered garage does NOT mean you don’t wear the appropriate outdoor clothing. The changes in temperature from inside to outside also make the body more susceptible to illness.

  1. Sleep is key.

Having a strong immune system isn’t going to help you one iota if you’re not properly rested. A sleep-deprived immune system is worth nothing to you.

  1. Help your immune system

This is that sly reminder to make wise health decisions. I don’t think I need to explain to you what tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption can do to that immune system? Oh, this also goes for eating properly cooked meat too. And exercise, but only in moderation.

“After moderate to intense exercise—say, running for 40 to 60 minutes without stopping—there is a 72-hour window during which your body is severely distressed, and that’s a time when people are susceptible to getting sick,” says Scott Weiss, MD, who has treated athletes in the NFL, NHL, WNBA, and was part of the sports medicine team at the Athens and Beijing Olympic Games.

  1. It’s okay to be around those who are sick

In fact, it’s a requirement! Your immune system needs it to be able to recognize, fight and develop an immunity to all the bugs out there if it’s not being exposed to them? Stop avoiding everyone who looks, sounds or claims to be ill. Most germs enter your body through your nose or mouth—so if you’re around someone who’s sick or next to someone who sneezes, avoid taking big inhalations.

  1. Never go to work sick.

This is often difficult for nurses who tend to put patients’ needs before their own needs. There is absolutely no benefit to showing up for work sick. If anything, it will make you feel worse and GET worse. And you will spread your germs too so rather stay at home. The body heals when you sleep.

  1. Know when it is time to see the doctor. Don’t be a martyr.

Antibiotic resistance is not a myth. Don’t call your PCP just because you have a sniffle. This holds true for the other end of the spectrum, too! Don’t wait 10 days into your cold when you don’t have enough energy to make the phone call, let alone talk.

  1. Stop taking shortcuts – OTC Meds

The list is endless here. Vitamin C, B12, D, E (pick a letter from the alphabet), echinacea, ginkgo biloba, elderberry, zinc, etc Magical formulas in a bottle don’t exist. Rather supplement your system by taking probiotics which will help your gut’s healthy bacterial barrier.

  1. Tie back your hair

Just because you can’t see the germs doesn’t mean they’re not there. Tie it back, Ladies! And Gents!

  1. Keep your fingers off your face.

Most communicable diseases are transferred by touching your eyes, mouth or nose with unclean hands and fingers. Not to sound like a broken record, but make sure to wash your hands as much as humanly possible!

  1. Wash your washing machine.

When’s the last time you washed your washing machine? Research has shown that bacteria thrive in dark, moist places so they could build up in there over time.

  1. Wash everything you touch.

How often do you clean your phones, microwave, keyboard, doorknobs, light switches, bed rails, remote controls, and children’s toys? Use soap and water or alcohol-based disinfecting wipes during your regular weekly cleaning—even more often during cold and flu season—to stop the spread of germs on these high-touch surfaces. There is also a phone soap charger which sanitizes your phone using UV light within seconds.

  1. Avoid sugar.

That’s because, like alcohol, sugar inhibits white blood cells from engulfing bacteria and viruses. So, keep your sugar intake to the bare minimum, and if you are already sick, avoid it altogether.

  1. Fresh air is vital, even if temperatures are glacial.

Get some fresh air even if it is cold outside. Also, invest in an air purifier. There are some filter-less models on the market designed specifically to remove or inactivate bacteria and viruses.

  1. Practice good self-care.

Physical health requires overall wellness and staying strong. A hospital in Atlanta promotes a holistic approach for staff that includes daily exercise, good nutrition, and fitness. It offers fitness classes, unit stretch breaks, and psychosocial support when needed. But even if your facility does not offer this, the onus is on you to look after your own well-being.

Share any other tips you might have. 

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