Cold and flu season is just around the corner. With millions of reported flu cases every year in the United States, you’ll want to take preventative measures to avoid the virus. As a healthcare professional working in hospitals and healthcare facilities, your risk of catching the flu increases drastically. Here are our tips on how to stay healthy during flu season.
Keep Yourself and Your Surroundings Clean
Washing your hands is always a good idea, especially when sicknesses like the flu are going around. To prevent the burden of getting sick and having to miss shifts or social events, frequently wash your hands and wipe down surfaces that have been utilized by others. Phones, keyboards, light switches, and doorknobs all carry germs and bacteria, so remember to sanitize them as well. Additionally, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands if you’ve been coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose to limit the spread of a potential virus.
Be Cautious When Traveling
If you’re a travel nurse who often uses public transit, you’ll especially want to make sure that you don’t touch any part of your face on the go unless your hands are guaranteed to be clean and free of germs. Touching your face puts you at a greater risk for germs to enter your mouth and nose, which will boost your chances of getting sick. You’ll also want to refrain from nail biting since our nails collect large amounts of bacteria even if you do wash your hands frequently (Methodist, 2022).
If you’re a travel nurse or allied health professional deciding where you want your next assignment to be, it wouldn’t hurt to look at the flu trends that vary state by state. Looking at the flu trends could not only help you decide where you want to go on your next travel assignment, but it could also give you and your patients a good idea of what to expect (EthosMedStaff, 2022). By knowing the trends and conditions of the state you are in, you will know how much you need to prepare and what you need to bring with you on your assignment.
Bringing the essentials with you on assignments is another key strategy to staying healthy. You won’t want to go anywhere without your hand sanitizer, tissues, sanitizing wipes, vitamins, masks, a thermometer, and a water bottle to keep you hydrated.
Practice Healthy Habits
Maintaining a strong immune system is one of the best things you can do to dodge the flu. To do this, it is recommended to keep a healthy diet, manage your stress levels, drink plenty of water, get at least eight hours of sleep, exercise regularly, and have a good amount of vitamin intake. This can be as easy as drinking an Emergen-C, or just taking vitamin C and D supplements.
As a healthcare professional, you probably already know the benefits of getting a flu shot. When working in hospitals and other healthcare facilities, it is crucial that you get the vaccine, especially if you’re on a unit where majority of the patients have the flu. Because the Influenza virus mutates every year, it is imperative that you get the vaccine annually (Methodist, 2022).
Be Mindful at the Workplace
To ensure you don’t catch the flu while working in a hospital or other healthcare facility, there are certain precautions that are especially important to take. First and foremost, you should strictly follow practices involving infection control when working a shift (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2023).
Protective equipment should be used and worn at all times when working in healthcare facilities. During the flu season, your mask, gown, goggles, and gloves will be your best friends. With this in mind, you’ll also want to make sure you’re following the correct order in which to put on and take off your protective equipment (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2023). By missing a step or going out of order, you are instantly increasing your odds of catching the flu.
The hospital or healthcare facility you work at most likely already has procedures in place for separating patients who have symptoms of the flu from those who do not. However, it does not hurt to do an additional screening of a patient if you think they could be infected with the stomach flu (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2023) Moreover, if you are not considered essential personnel and do not need to be in a flu patient’s room, avoid it at all costs.
Keep Your Distance
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is not as prevalent or talked about today, practicing social distancing is still a proactive way to avoid the flu and other sicknesses. If you are a high-risk individual who would suffer from severe flu complications, for example, if you have respiratory issues or are pregnant, it is especially important to keep your distance from crowds that could be infected with the virus (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2023).
If you know someone who is not a patient that starts to feel unwell, try to distance yourself from them as soon as you become aware. Similarly, if you start to feel an illness coming on, stay away from others so that it does not continue to spread or worsen. If you find yourself in a situation where your proximity to a person becomes unavoidable, for example, if you live with a person who may have flu-like symptoms, you can still do your best to prevent contracting the stomach flu. For instance, try opening a window or investing in a quality air purifier so that everyone isn’t breathing the same stuffy air (Methodist, 2022). Make sure to also sanitize areas in which the ill feeling individual has been, or simply designate a quarantine room.
While the flu can be unavoidable at times, using these preventative methods can decrease your chances of contracting the flu virus. As a nurse or other healthcare professional, you may find yourself prioritizing other people’s health over your own. Nonetheless, it’s essential to stay healthy so you can be the best healthcare provider you can be. We hope these tips on how to stay healthy during the flu season benefit you and your patients!
The information in this blog is for general informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider for personalized guidance. The authors and publishers are not liable for errors or omissions, and reliance on the content is at your own risk.