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How to Keep Your Immune System in Tip Top Shape

October 1, 2015

When you are working long or odd hours as a travel nurse, it's easy to let your immune system get run down. Unfortunately, having a weak immune system makes you more susceptible to bacteria and viruses that may make you sick. Since you will be spending a large amount of your time with people who carry these pathogens, you need to keep your immune system as strong and robust as possible.

Below are some tips to help you strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk of illness.

1. Get Enough Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep per day. If you don't get enough sleep, your immune system can suffer, and you won't have the energy you need to get through the day. Although it may be difficult to get the sleep you need as a nurse, you should still make every effort to spend at least seven hours asleep every night.

2. Eat a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet that contains all of the nutrients you need to fuel your body keeps your immune system strong. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. Not only do these foods provide you with the nutrition you need, they also contain powerful antioxidants that support a healthy immune system. Eating the proper amount of protein and whole grains is important to your overall health as well.

3. Avoid Drinking and Smoking

Both alcohol and nicotine can lower your defenses and make you more susceptible to illness. In addition, both of these habits raise your risk of cancer and other health problems in the future. If you are a smoker, try to quit as soon as possible or at least limit the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Likewise, limit your intake of alcohol and avoid binge drinking.

4. Be Active

Physical activity keeps your heart, lungs and immune system strong. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day in order to maintain good health. If you are not already participating in an exercise regimen, it is time to start. If you are new to exercising, remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to protect yourself from injury.

5. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Being overweight can weaken your immune system and force all of your organs to work harder than they should. If your weight is too high, consider changing the way you eat and increasing physical activity in order to lose some excess fat. If you are already at a healthy weight, continue eating a balanced diet and participating in regular physical activity to maintain your physique.

6. Decrease your Stress Level

Although short-term stress gives your immune system a boost, long-term stress lowers your ability to fight off infection. Keep your stress level as low as possible by taking some time for yourself each day to relax and meditate. You can also lower your stress level by participating in fun activities and spending time with friends or relatives. If you feel like your stress level is still too high, consider counseling or medical treatment.

As a nurse, your immune system is one of your most important assets. Following these tips will help you keep this system working at its best.

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