10 Tips From A Nurse On How Not To Get Sick

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Nurses are always in the “sick” season. We spend more time indoors. We spend more time shoulder to shoulder with our fellow humans. We create the perfect environment for those wonderful microscopic mortal enemies responsible for initiating the sickness.

I’m pretty sure we’re ALL a little sick (yes, pun intended) of hearing about tips to stave off the common (and not-so common) cold, but why don’t we go over it once again? I mean, repetition IS the mother of all learning, isn’t it?!

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.

2. Dress appropriately

Just because your car is parked in a covered garage does NOT mean you don’t wear the appropriate outdoor clothing. I don’t know how many times I see coworkers walking “quickly” from their car with little to no outdoor gear. Oh, and ladies, put something on your head!

3. Get some sleep

That wonderful immune system you’ve built up isn’t gonna do you any favors if you’re not properly rested. A sleep-deprived immune system is worth nothing to you.

4. 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, etc., too.

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

In fact, it’s a requirement! How else is your immune system going to recognize, fight and develop an immunity to those nasty bugs out there if it’s not being exposed to them? Stop avoiding everyone who looks, sounds or claims to be ill.

6. Don’t go to work sick!

This is a tough one for my fellow nurses. There is absolutely no benefit to showing up for work sick. If anything, it will make you feel worse and GET worse. Stay home. Get that sleep I was talking about.

7. Call the doctor when it’s time

Antibiotic resistance is not a myth. Don’t call your PCP just because you have a runny nose. 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.

8. 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. Stop looking for lightning in a bottle…it doesn’t exist.

9. 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!

10. Don’t touch 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!

So. Did I miss any major tips? Care to add one?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I can only add, don’t bring your children to work. I’ve seen 2 year olds wiht runny noses and maybe a rash brought in so that Nurse can pick up a check or some such.

    Your kids deserve better and maybe you won’t catch or be responsible for getting your whole unit sick.

  2. Take Pantothenic Acid-vitamin B-5 2000 mg /3 x daily and drink lots of water. It may help your patients that have it too?

  3. Clean the phone when you come in With bleach wipes and try to only use that phone, you would not believe the germs that are infested in phones. I also clean the desk where I will sit to chart most of my shift. I agree with cleaning your nares, I’ve been doing this for years.

  4. I take a tablespoon of local honey ( must be local to your area ) each morning during “Allergy” season–this is almost year round in South Carolina. For sure right before Spring and Fall. I have done this for the last 7 years and my allergies have improved by –well, they have improved to where I am no longer taking Claritin or any of the other meds.

    • Join This is such great advice. Those bees feed on the things that we are allergic to and eating that honey helps to boost our immunity to those allergens. A beekeeper shared this with me.the discussion…

    • I have taken local honey and cinnamon every day for years and rarely get sick. Too much cinnamon will cause tachycardia, so be aware.

  5. My hospital insists on flu shot every year. I’m disgusted by the forcing of injection of ineffective vaccine on nurses. How can we stop this battery of nurses.?

    • I totally agree and feel that it takes away my right to freedom of choice. I do not want something injected into my body when I am a healthy young individual. It is okay if you need it, like the elderly but otherwise, NO! However, I am a nurse and can not afford to lose my job. Would love to hear of a way to stop forcing the flu vaccine on unwilling individuals!

  6. Take time to exercise, walk in nature and possibly meditate! I know who has time but when I do I don’t get sick.

    If you can’t find time for exercise you will for illness later.

  7. Clorox wipes to high touch areas. I find zinc tabs effective at the first sign of a cold. I even take them pre and during flights. I used to get sick after every flight, but not since I found zinc. B

  8. I have YET to find one employer who is sympathetic with the sick calls. I’ve been a nurse almost 20 years now (working in ER, acute care clinics, in full exposure of all the latest and greatest viruses) and nobody has ever been “understanding” and supportive of staying home when ill. There are always those “few” that abuse the sick calls and ruin it for the other nurses.

    • I went into work many nights with IBS-D. 20 trips to the porcelain throne on a telemetry unit. Had to go down to pharmacy for complimentary Lomotil which complicated how bad I already felt, started getting bloated like a hot air balloon. I finally learned the best tx for either type of IBS is fiber+probiotic daily. I havent had an attack in over 10 years. & the probiotic cleared my adult acne up.

    • I agree. Nurses come in with the flu and spread it around without boss saying a word. But call off with flu too many hours and get written up.

  9. Vitamin D3 is the best way I have found to support the immune system. The goal is to keep the blood level between 60-80. In the winter I take between 5000 and 10,000 units daily. That and a good probiotic, over 70 billion live cultures, are proven immune boosters. I also put YLEO Thieves Vitality essential oil in my water daily. And of course, sleep, healthy diet-no wheat, no dairy and all organic, have me healthier than I have been in years

  10. Flu vaccine has been proven ineffective. Probiotics and supplements have been proven effective. Good old fashioned handwashing, not sanitizer gels. Staying home when you are ill. Being around the ill, if you are in good health, practice good hygeine, will boost your immune system.

  11. 9. As nurses we need to keep vigilant about the routine. Before leaving Work wipe down your pens and stethoscope before putting them into your bag. Also give your clogs a wipe down of hydrogen peroxide and leave them at the door entrance or exit or even your garage. And yes, the flu vaccine, worthless over the last several years and possibly contributing to early dementia in the medical staff population, it’s a huge money maker $$$$$$ for big pharma and yes I am a nurse saying this, but there are needs to be open dialogue about this topic.

    • I dont trust flu shots either. We dont know whats in that vaccine unless we have it analyzed ourselves. I know 2 nurses who dev. Guillain barre&ended up on a ventilator. A company was discovered watering down flu vaccines&selling it full price. We cld be getting NS injectable &not know it. Read the lable. Its only %70 effective. %30 ineffective. &every year I get it, 3 days later I have a disabling fibromyalgia attack. I told my internal med abt it. She looked it up&found research&reports abt fibro&flu shots effects in women my age.

    • I was just about to start on the keyboard. IF it is possible–park a clear box outside of your house door–as you mentioned, give your shoes a swipe of a clorox wipe and toss shoes in the box–barefoot or sockfeet inside is great–keep those germies out where they are fine. If you can get the others to do this–it will amaze you how it cuts down on those allergy sniffles…..not to mention the BAD germs you can bring inside.

  12. Sure, nurses can do all these things, but:
    Nurses who are indeed exposed to so many germs and illness are given less sick days/call-in’s than employees who work most anywhere else including factories which is completely unreasonable and not sensible!!
    In hind-sight, nurses should be getting the most sick days/call-in’s due to their repetitive exposures of illnesses and germs. Increase number of sick days/call-in’s would also help nurses keep better care of their own health by deterring nurses from feeling obligated to come to work ill due to lack of call-in’s days, and they could then stay home to rest up, and get themselves better from their own illnesses instead of spreading more germs by going to work anyway.
    But then again…..Healthcare tends to care about greatly about their patients, but not their own workers as much that care for those very patient’s! In turn the germs all come back to the patients if nurses are coming to work ill….So I ask…..How much do they really care????

  13. Your remarks on staying well are spot on, but how do we get the message to employers, and especially health care institutions, that staying home sick is the thing to do. Sick workers are not as productive, and may be down right dangerous, but they spread germs, infecting other staff and patients. The Health Care Industry is the least rational about what sick employees should do. And, NO, the flu shot does not protect one from getting other things, which I have heard said by supposedly intelligent nurses and doctors. They would even push employees to take a vaccine that has been shown to less than 10% effective. Where are our brains?

    • Same deal with back injuries. I herniated 3 disks lifting pts i should not have been without adequate help or equipment. It took me completely out of nursing. Im on an 8# lift limit forever. I just now recovered my ability to walk&keep my balance w/o a cane. It took 7 years of PT&accupuncture to be pain free. I now substitute teach where the heaviest thing i have to lift is a pencil

  14. #8–I see big pharmacy has got them selves another troll. The right supplements taken on a reg basis then bolus if feeling like you are getting sick–like vitamin C. And yes I am an RN- have been for 30 years.

    • VitC like VitB is water soluble, your body only uses what it needs and you lose the excess in your urine which is why it turns your urine green to bright yellow.

  15. I use a natural oil diffuser with eucalyptus oil ..I keep 1 in my office for avoiding the dryness of the nasal passages which does lead to decreased fight power. Plus the Natural Antiviral & Antibacterial properties of the oils is remarkable!
    Plus it smells great and clean

  16. How about a healthy diet. Us nurses often grab whatever when it would behoove us to take some time packing healthy meals and quick snacks to bring to work. When you haven’t done so your meal will end up being vending machine junk food, things you find in the bottom of your locker or work bag, or saltiness and coffee from the lounge.

  17. Wash your nares. Nurses breath in a lot of germs that can sit on your cilia. Wash out those noses and flush out these germs!

  18. Wear a mask if you come to work because your Charge RN shames you into it. Also wear mask when doing close work w/patients who cough alot. I’ve drawn labs from a central line only to be coughed on…alot!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

What’s The Best Moment Of Every Shift?

Nurses are known for their selfless compassion and their unwavering patient advocacy. It’s been said many times on our website that being a nurse...

Top 5 Most Expensive Conditions Treated in U.S. Hospitals

Costs associated with inpatient stays constitute the largest single component of healthcare spending.  Working as a healthcare professional, you are on the frontline of...

Put Your Own Mask On First

I never gave much thought to the pre-flight instructions until I became a nurse. More specifically, I never thought much of those infamously boring and...