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4 ways nursing students can avoid the flu

It’s that time of year again. Every year flu season calls for preventative measures like frequent hand washing and the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. As a nursing student, it’s particularly essential that you’re protecting yourself from germs, as being around a large number of students and patients during classes and clinicals puts you at a greater risk of catching a virus.

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With responsibilities like exams requiring all of your energy and focus as you work to earn your masters of science in nursing, you can’t afford to be overcome with an illness. As the flu season continues, make sure that you’re reducing your risk of catching the virus with preventative measures.

1. Get the flu vaccine
If you haven’t already received the flu vaccination, it’s never too late. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu shot is the most effective way to avoid the flu virus, especially for health care professionals who are at risk of contracting the illness from patients and coworkers. This is why more than 80 percent of nurses get the flu vaccine early on in the season – one of the highest early flu vaccination coverages of all professions in the U.S., explained the CDC. It’s also important to consider that if you get the flu and are working in the hospital during clinicals, you’re exposing those who are at high risk of the flu, such as patients 65 years or older, to the virus.

2. Wash hands frequently
Washing your hands may sound like an obvious preventative measure against any illness, but few people do it as frequently as they should. In addition to washing them after using the restroom, you should also scrub your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing food, after blowing your nose or sneezing, after touching an animal, such as a dog or cat, and before and after caring for a patient, according to the CDC. It’s also a good idea to scrub them after attending class, as you may have touched infected surfaces.

If you aren’t near a sink with soap, use a hand sanitizer that contains more than 60 percent alcohol. With effective hand sanitizer, the number of germs on your hands will drastically decrease, but all of the germs won’t be eliminated like they are when you wash them with soap and water.

3. Don’t touch your face
Do you have a tendency to bite your nails or touch your face? Unless you are washing your hands before and after you touch everything you come into contact with, this is a sure why to make yourself sick. New York-based doctor Louis J. Morledge, M.D., told Prevention magazine that nail biters put themselves at risk of infecting themselves, as a lot of germs and bacteria build up under finger nails. The mouth, eyes and nose are germs’ gateways into the body, so after you’ve had your hands all over a desk or pen that other people have used, the last thing you want to do is put your hand over your mouth or rub your eyes.

4. Know what activities to avoid
You may enjoy going for a morning run to get yourself prepared for the day. Keep in mind, however, that excessive exercise stresses your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to illness. For example, if you usually go for a 40-60 minute moderate-intensity run, your immune system will be severely distressed for about 72 hours. During this window, your risk of catching a virus increases. Give your body enough time to repair and rest before jumping into your next workout.

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It’s also best to avoid excessive alcohol when you’re working to avoid a flu at school or in the hospital. More than one drink per day may suppress your immune system. Consider skipping the extra glass of wine at dinner.

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