Once you’re at work, it’s hard to avoid the day-to-day ills of the human condition — viruses, bacteria, airborne allergens like mites and dust. But there are ways that professionals can maintain a healthy immune system. That includes wearing the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) all day long and avoiding certain activities on site.
That said, here are five ways healthcare professionals can keep from getting sick when they should be focusing on patients instead of their health:
- Washing Your Hands Properly
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that handwashing could prevent up to 30 percent of illnesses in hospitals, but only 40 percent of health care workers wash their hands correctly. And the consequences are dire: Healthcare-associated infections kill 7,000 people every year and make 128,000 more seriously ill.
Since you’re exposed to so many individuals a day, you should wash your hands every time — and we mean after every patient interaction. You also need to use soap and hot water during every touch. Coldwater doesn’t kill all germs, and for people with compromised immune systems, it’s not even close to a substitute for hot water. Just make sure you’re using plain soap — antibacterial soap kills good, living microorganisms.
- Using Your Face Shield Properly
If you’re in a hospital environment, you’re probably wearing PPE such as anti fog face shield, mask, or respirator every time you go in an area that requires a respirator. The CDC recommends using these masks when airborne particulates are greater than 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air (10 ug/m3). According to the CDC, “The 10-microgram average used by the general public to indicate ‘fine’ is unreliable. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended against this use of the average number because it is not particularly useful as a health protection measure.”
You’ll want to wear a face shield for a few minutes at work. If you’re exposed, it’s better to do some preventative measures — and one of them is to get a full-face mask. You can avoid everything from the flu and the common cold to viruses that cause tuberculosis and common airborne pathogens like mites.
- Use Hand sanitizer
Healthcare professionals, especially those working in the operating room, are prone to getting sick because of their environment (dirty, germ-ridden scrubs and masks) and their tasks (typically hands-on). Their hands go around in all sorts of places in a hospital setting; they can inevitably pick up germs. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Hand sanitizers contain ingredients that kill germs on contact. They’re effective against germs, including colds and flu viruses, so use one regularly throughout the day. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are available in drugstores and supermarkets.
Germs can live on surfaces such as door handles, phones, keyboards, light switches, toilets, and faucets. So if you touch any of those areas without cleaning them first, you could transfer germs to yourself. Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces. If you contact potentially contaminated items, wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can make you fatigued, weak, and less able to fight off illness. Drink plenty of fluids each day, especially during the warmer months. Water is best, but other beverages like sports drinks may help replace electrolytes lost through sweating.