10 Tips From A Nurse On How Not To Get Sick

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Woman holding up thermometer in front of her and sick woman

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.

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Leticia RNC, LC
4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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… Read more »

4 years ago

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

4 years ago

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

4 years ago

#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.

Victoria Cristiná
5 years ago

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

Kathleen Mattingly-Lilly
2 years ago

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?

2 years ago

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 years ago

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.

Linda Thompson, RN
4 years ago

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… Read more »

4 years ago

PS. Stay away from flu shots.

5 years ago

Never even thought of washing out your nares. But I like the idea!

1 year ago

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.

Henriette Hall
2 years ago

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.

Kelley Lamb
3 years ago

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.?

3 years ago

And drinking Water! Remember, our bodies are made up of 90% water.

3 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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.

Vera Standish RN
4 years ago

Many co-workers will come to work sick to avoid the repercussions of a “call in”.

5 years ago

probiotics (even doctors are telling this to patients now!), sleep, good diet, dont ever touch your face.

5 years ago

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.

I Camaligan
6 years ago

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!

ML Bryant
6 years ago

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!

Danielle Orr
6 years ago

How about the flu shot?

6 years ago

More handwashing …less foamy stuff….I see to many substitute the antibacterial stuff for some good old fashioned hand worshin’!

Danielle Orr
6 years ago

You forgot the flu shot. It is becoming mandatory in many hospitals. Thank you