As a health professional, you face a lot of exposure to many types of people who can all carry germs and illness. Depending on the setting of your assignment, you may even be exposed to more than the flu virus.
Simple everyday items like your keyboard, doorknob, or microwave carry more germs than the average toilet seat. Disgusting, I know, but there are simple measures to prevent you from getting sick this flu season.
- Get the flu shot now. Or get it as soon as you can. It takes about two weeks for the antibodies of the vaccination to develop protection, so don't wait until the outbreak hits. The shot contains an inactive virus which cannot cause illness. This is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. The nasal spray form of the vaccination, however, does contain a weakened form of the virus and may be available for people between the ages of 2 and 49. The flu shot will last you the entire flu season, but does not last from year to year, so make sure to make the vaccination an annual occurance.
- Wash up. As a healthcare professional you probably wash your hands more frequently than most, but this can be one of the most important ways to prevent illness. By increasing the frequency and time spent washing your hands, you can dramatically decrease you chance of illness. Hands should be scrubbed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds per wash. This is about the time it will take you to sing happy birthday twice in your head (or aloud if you please!)
- Keep hands away from you nose, mouth, and eyes. This seems like common sense, but the average person touches their face 3-4,000 times a day. By making a conscious effort to stop this, you can decrease the number of germs that enter your body this way.
- Keep sanatizer handy. You never know when you're going to have someone sneeze or cough near you and you aren't near a restroom to go wash your hands. Hand sanatizer won't get dirt off your hands, but the alcohol will kill germs.
- Clean up. Make sure to keep commonly touched areas clean. Keyboards and telephones are among the dirtiest places and you use them almost every day. If you are a therapist, make sure to keep all your equipment and instruments clean after each patient.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick. Do not shake hands or work closely around those who are sick. This may be difficult if your co-workers come to work sick, but at least avoid touching their things and do your best to stay away.
- Take good care of yourself. Make sure to get plenty of rest, eat a well balanced diet, get routine exercise, and manage your stress well to keep your immune system high.
- Cover your cough. If you have to cough or sneeze, make sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue so you don't spread your germs to those around you. Disinfect your hand afterwards.
- If you're sick, stay home. Don't risk infecting your co-workers or patients with you illness. Make sure you are feeling better and no longer contagious before returning to work.
Hopefully, by taking these measures, you can prevent getting sick at all this winter.