Do What Nurses Do
During flu season, few people come into contact with the virus more often than nurses, so it makes sense to find out what their secret is to avoiding illness. Kristin Ramsey, MSN, MPPM, RN, NE-BC, senior vice president and Wood-Prince Family chief nurse executive at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, shares simple strategies that anyone can follow to avoid getting flu.
1. Get vaccinated.
The best way to avoid getting flu is to give your body a better chance to fight infection, and that starts with a flu shot. Flu vaccines may vary in effectiveness from year to year, but getting the shot increases your chances of being protected and lessens your symptoms if you do get ill. The flu shot is not right for everyone, though. Talk to your physician about whether you should have a flu shot.
2. Keep your hands clean.
Hand hygiene is the simplest way to stop transmission of illness. In the hospital, nurses wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after every patient encounter because hand hygiene is both simple and effective in stopping the spread of infection.
You can pick up flu from a simple handshake, or from handrails and other surfaces that are frequently touched and are likely to harbor germs. In these situations, avoid touching your face, eyes or mouth until you have had a chance to clean your hands. The best way to protect yourself is to carry hand sanitizer for quick hand hygiene when you’re on the go.
3. Take care of yourself.
A healthy body has a healthy immune system. To give your body a fighting chance if you’re exposed to flu, take care of yourself with a healthy diet, plenty of water, good sleep and routine exercise.
4. Avoid people who are ill.
This one is tough for nurses, but it is a simple suggestion for most people. Don’t visit with someone who has flu, and skip a social event if you know someone there is sick. Of course, as you move through your day, you won’t always be able to avoid people who are ill. If you do find yourself in contact with someone who may be sick, be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible after the encounter.
If You Get the Flu
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to avoid getting sick. When this happens, remember:
- Stay home until symptoms resolve. You’re not letting anyone down by calling in sick or canceling a family get together. You’re doing everyone a favor by helping avoid spreading germs.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Stay hydrated by drinking water, juice or non-caffeinated tea.
- If your symptoms become severe, call your physician. Flu can turn into a more serious condition such as pneumonia, bronchitis or an ear infection — especially in babies, older adults and people with chronic health conditions.