Top Strategies for Travel Nurses to Survive Flu Season
By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor
Could we be on the precipice of the perfect storm? The coronavirus pandemic combined with the 2020-2021 flu season may result in catastrophic outcomes for our country’s healthcare system. Although COVID-19 mandates for masks and social distancing could also help to improve flu contagion rates, travel nurses and other healthcare professionals can implement different measures and safety precautions to help prevent the flu this season.
From prioritizing your health and wellness to getting the appropriate vaccinations, there are many things that nurses and other clinicians can do to survive this flu season. Don’t neglect these top strategies to prevent the flu and help you carry on:
- Get a flu shot
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best and first way to prevent the flu is to get an annual flu vaccination. The CDC notes that influenza (flu) can be a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. They recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months get a vaccine, especially healthcare workers, for the following reasons:
Anyone can get very sick from flu, including people who are otherwise healthy.
You can get flu from patients and coworkers who are sick;
If you contract the flu, you can spread it to others even if you don’t feel ill.
By getting vaccinated, you help protect yourself, your family and your patients.
There are many myths and misconceptions about flu shots. One of the most common is that a flu vaccine can actually cause the flu. This is not possible since the vaccines are made with virus strains that are either killed or weakened. It’s also important to get a flu shot every year since the virus is constantly evolving and changing and immunity from vaccinations decline over time.
It’s also important to note that flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they can reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system and conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19, according to the CDC.
- Focus on your health, wellness and hygiene
When you spend all of your time and energy caring for others it can be easy to neglect your own health and wear down your immune system. Flu symptoms can range from fatigue and fever to body aches and headaches, and they are known to come on rapidly. To help prevent an onslaught of symptoms, consider focusing on your health and wellness. This means things like eating a nutritious, clean diet, getting regular amounts of exercise, logging enough hours of sleep, reducing stress and bolstering immunity with vitamins such as C, D and zinc. (Consult your physician before beginning a vitamin regimen.)
Personal hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks and keeping your distance from others where applicable are all solid preventative steps you can take to help reduce your risk of catching the flu.
If you do contract the flu, you can take flu antiviral medication that is prescribed by a doctor. These drugs can make the symptoms milder and shorten the time you are sick. Additionally, they may also prevent serious flu complications. Flu symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat can also be treated with over-the-counter medications.
What’s new this flu season?
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season, according to the CDC. Trivalent vaccines are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. Quadrivalent vaccines protect against four viruses; the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine as well as an additional B virus.
The CDC has outlined and identified the following vaccines for the 2020-2021 flu season:
All 2020-2021 egg-based influenza vaccines are made to protect against the following three viruses:
- an influenza A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
- an influenza A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus; and
- an influenza B/Washington/02/2019 (Victoria lineage)-like virus.
All 2020-2021 cell-based influenza vaccines are made to protect against the following three viruses:
- an influenza A/Hawaii/70/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
- an influenza A/Hong Kong/45/2019 (H3N2)-like virus; and
- an influenza B/Washington/02/2019 (Victoria lineage)-like vi
For more information:
Flu Shots: Protecting You, Your Family and Your Patients
12 Tips to Survive the Flu Season
Influenza (Flu) - Information for Healthcare Professionals – CDC
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