Get Prepared for Cold and Flu Season

Two highly effective preventative measures used by healthcare professionals against contracting or spreading colds or the flu are shown: proper handwashing and getting a flu shotBoost your immunity and use preventative measures to protect yourself and patients

No one wants to get sick, but it’s especially important for healthcare professionals to protect themselves and their patients from germs and viruses this time of year. Flu remains a serious infection that still kills thousands annually. And even colds can lead to other respiratory issues.

While germs may be everywhere, the good news is that we can prevent many of them from infecting us. Try the following suggestions at home and work to keep your immune system strong and help you beat the cold and flu this season.

Wash your hands properly

Perhaps the single best way to prevent infections is to follow hand washing protocol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization both offer guidelines, and your employer may have its own protocol. You should follow this protocol whether you are at work or home. You need to wash your hands not just after you use the bathroom, but at these important times as well:

  • After coming in from outside
  • After using public transportation
  • After taking out the trash
  • After shaking hands
  • Before cooking
  • After housework
  • After walking or feeding pets
  • After helping a sick family member

Get the flu vaccine

If you work in the healthcare field, you usually will be required to get a flu shot. But everyone should get one. While its effectiveness can vary, it’s still your best defense against contracting the flu or reducing its severity if you do get it. As a bonus, it’s been shown to protect young, healthy working adults from colds and other illnesses.

Get enough sleep

Ideally, you need at least eight hours of sleep a night to keep your immune system working its best. A 2009 study found that those who slept less than seven hours were almost 3 times as likely to develop a cold as those who had eight hours of sleep or more.

Try not to touch your face

Every time we touch our eyes, nose, or mouth, we can transfer germs through our mucus membranes. Try to break the habits of rubbing your eyes, biting nails, scratching your nose, or licking a finger to turn a page.

Don’t share germs

Whether you are sick or not, you can keep your germs from spreading by sneezing and coughing into the crook of your arm if you can’t get a tissue in time. Buy lots of tissues now, so you are prepared when you get a cold. Never reuse a tissue and throw it away as soon as you are done blowing your nose and wash your hands.

Keep surfaces clean

Routine cleaning of countertops can help prevent the spread of germs. Also keep your other belongings from contaminating your house by:

  • Taking off shoes when you enter your house (use slippers or house shoes)
  • Change out of dirty clothes
  • Keep grocery bags off your kitchen counter—unload them from the floor
  • Hang other work bags or handbags instead of placing them on counters

Eat healthy

Avoiding sugar and eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains will help boost your immunity. Make sure if you don’t get sunlight, especially this time of year, that you get vitamin D in your diet. The vitamin has been shown to help fight colds and other respiratory infections. Drinking water will keep you hydrated and improves your overall health.

Lower your stress

Your stress level plays a role in how well your body fights infections. If you are under stress, try using stress-relieving strategies to improve how you feel.


Getting the proper amount of exercise is important to keeping your body healthy. While it may be hard as it gets colder and darker during the winter months, if you commit to exercise you will feel better. If you don’t think you have time to work out, try making daily exercise a habit by doing little things like parking further away and speed walking to your destination, taking stairs whenever possible, or doing 50 push-ups as soon as you wake up. There is always a way to get it in!

What if you do get sick?

Sometimes, no matter what we do, we come down with something. In fact, last year about three out of five Americans who had the flu or flu-like symptoms said they left the house sick and put others at risk, according to a survey conducted last year by CityMD, a network of 75 urgent care centers. The highest percentage of those surveyed admitted to going to the drug store, grocery store, work, and restaurants.

So how can you make sure you aren’t one of those people spreading germs? Now is the time to make a survival kit, so you have everything you need.

  • Stock up on tissues. With one cold you can easily go through a box of tissues. Make sure you have enough for everyone in your household. Remember, it’s once and done. You never want to reuse a tissue.
  • Fluids. When you are sick, the best thing to do is stay hydrated. While you will always have water, you may want to buy now whatever you like to hydrate yourself when you are feeling ill:
      • Ginger ale
      • Electrolyte water or Gatorade
      • Soup
      • Jello
      • Tea
      • Popsicles
  • Honey. A 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that honey was the most effective remedy for reducing coughing and helping those with a respiratory illness get rest. In the study, the dosage for children 2 to 5 years old was ½ teaspoon; children 6 to 11 was 1 teaspoon; and 12 and up received 2 teaspoons about 30 minutes before bed with a non-caffeinated beverage. Never feed honey to anyone under the age of 1 due to the risk of botulism.
  • Additional supplies.  Make sure you have a thermometer, fever-reducing medicine, saline drops, and a cool-mist humidifier.

The best advice is to stay at home if you aren’t feeling well and get plenty of rest. That way you can recuperate faster, and you won’t spread your germs to others.

We hope that you find these tips useful and have a happy and healthy winter! Nothing is more important than your health!

This post is part of the Harris School of Business weekly blog, which provides health and wellness tips to help support our students. If you are interested in a career training program in the health care industry, please explore our options, request more information, schedule a tour, or call a career advisor at 800-510-7920.