By Marwa Hijazi
Guest Writer for The Right Solutions
As a nurse, your patients’ health and well-being is always your number-one priority. But as the cold and flu season ramps us, you’ll need to make sure you’re also taking care of yourself. Constant exposure to cold and flu germs can leave even the savviest travel nurses at risk for illness. And if you come down with a cold or flu bug, the only thing you’ll really be able to offer your patients is exposure to more germs.
Take these tips for staying healthy during this year’s cold and flu season.
Your Healthy To-Do List
1. Choose food wisely. Certain foods can actually help you fend off germs, and others can help with cold and flu symptoms. It’s easy to fall into bad eating habits when you’re traveling, but paying attention to how you fuel your body can help keep it running strong. Here are a few healthy but satisfying options:
- Vegetarian chili – the beans are packed with immune-boosting Vitamin B, and the onions and garlic are anti-viral. Add some zesty spices to clear up those sinuses.
- Chicken soup – if you feel a cold coming on, this comforting, mom-approved remedy will help control the spread of inflammation and congestion-causing neutrophils.
- Fresh clementines – these portable mini-oranges are petite powerhouses of anti-oxidant goodness. Two a day gives you 100% of your Vitamin C RDA, which can help lessen the duration and severity of cold symptoms.
- Ginger tea – sip on this throughout the day to relieve congestion, and add a little honey to soothe your throat. To boost the anti-oxidant power, combine it with a green tea.
2. Drink lots of fluids. You already know that staying hydrated is important. But drinking plenty of clear liquids throughout the day – like water, juice, or tea – will also help thin mucous and relieve congestion.
3. Consider probiotics. While probiotics are known for aiding your digestive system, they also show promise in preventing the common cold. Kombucha tea is an excellent source of probiotics and can help you reach your hydration goals at the same time. Along with probiotics, there are several other health benefits you can gain from Kombucha tea.
4. Exercise sensibly. Light to moderate exercise boosts your immune system. But intense workouts can leave you susceptible to illness. Listen to your body and be careful not to overdo it.
5. Get that flu shot. This may be the most important preventative measure you can take this season. Do it for yourself, and for your patients.
6. Hold your breath. Germs can easily enter the body through the mouth or nose. If you’re near someone who’s sick, avoid taking deep breaths. If someone nearby coughs or sneezes, hold your breath for a good 10 to 15 seconds. This may not prevent direct exposure, but it can certainly help.
7. Wash your hands. As a nurse, you already know the importance of washing your hands, but it always bears repeating. And if you use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, allow it to dry naturally.
Your Don’t-Do List:
1. Spread the germs. Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands. Use a tissue or, if you don’t have one, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.
2. Overdo alcohol. A glass of wine with dinner is fine, but heavy drinking curbs your immune system and dehydrates you. And it can have contraindications with certain cold medicines.
3. Pour on the sugar. Like alcohol, sugar inhibits white blood cells from overtaking bacteria and viruses. Limit your daily intake as much as possible.
4. Smoke. Not only do smokers get more colds than non-smokers, their symptoms last longer and can turn into bronchitis or pneumonia. Don’t smoke and don’t let others smoke around you.
5. Skimp on sleep. Getting a full night’s sleep is critical for a healthy immune system. And grabbing naps when you can helps too.
6. Touch your face. You know that our hands are usually covered in germs, and our faces contain the main portals for germs to enter the body. But remembering to keep your hands off your face can be tough. Keep reminding yourself to practice this healthy habit.
7. Bite your nails. Germs thrive under fingernails. Putting them in your mouth is a big no-no.
Taking the time to care for yourself when you’re busy traveling and caring for others isn’t always easy. But by following these simple dos and don’ts,you can lower your own risk for illness so you can continue your mission of helping others achieve the best health possible.
Marwa Hijazi writes about topics related to health and nursing on behalf of Bisk Education, a facilitator of education programs online for universities such as Villanova University and Jacksonville University.