Cindy Staggs, R.N.

During peak cold and flu season -- November through February -- I see as many as 70 sick kids in one day. With all of those runny noses, you might think I'm constantly coughing and sneezing too. But I've learned a few things about fighting off viruses during my 24 years as a school nurse, which I want to share with you! So whether you're surrounded by a classroom full of kids or just want to keep your own family healthy, use my moves to avoid getting sick -- and stay sniffle-free this season.

Join the clean-hands club.

Scrubbing up is the single most important thing you can do to stay healthy. And a quick rinse doesn't cut it: You need to lather the soap and scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and beneath your nails for at least 20 seconds -- the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Think before you touch

Cold and flu viruses can survive outside of the body for up to 48 hours. So if someone sneezes on their hands and grabs a door handle a few hours before you do, you're at risk of catching that virus. That's why I try to steer clear of public water fountains and stair railings, and I always use a hand sanitizer after using a door handle. I also never use anyone's pen except my own, and have a separate phone that students can use in my office.

Teach proper tissue protocol

Used tissues should be thrown away immediately. Of course, my husband and two sons sometimes leave their tissues lying around (my pet peeve!). Since touching them with your fingers can spread germs, I grab them with a clean tissue and then wash my hands immediately.

Take a time-out

Like most women, I have a busy schedule with my job and kids. Sometimes it can feel like there aren't enough hours in the day! But it's important to take the time to eat right (plenty of fruits and vegetables), drink water (at least eight glasses a day), and log enough sleep every night to stay healthy. If I start to feel like I'm coming down with something, I make taking care of myself a top priority -- no matter how swamped I am. After all, it's better to cancel an obligation to get a little more rest one night than to get wiped out for days!


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Health - A School Nurse's Tricks to Avoid Getting Sick