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is your immune system suffering?

happy Sunday :)

I'm curious about all of your thoughts on this; I have been a nurse for five years. I have a very healthy lifestyle -I do not drink alcohol, I do not smoke, I eat very clean, I exercise, I'm not ever around small children, I should be the picture of health. I do everything right. For the past year and a half I have caught debilitating colds on average every 2-3 months. I have changed nothing in this time frame, I live in the same area, I'm diligent about hand hygiene - I work on a PCU floor 2 to 3 times a week and I even wear a mask year round (seems a lot of patients tend to cough all over me with no regard covering their mouth).

this is so disturbing to me - I've called in sick so much in the past year, and it's really affecting my quality-of-life and my fiancé thinks something is wrong with me. He has never had the flu in his life, he has never caught a cold and he has an immune system made of steel.

I'm considering leaving patient care because of this I can't think of any other rhyme or reason as to why I get knocked down every two months with a nasty cold, sore throat headache congestion that last 7 to 10 days. My pcp is hands-off, says it's bad luck & all my test are negative. When I'm well I'm 100%- I feel great I have no ailments & everything is good, and then boom I get knocked down.

my question to you -if you give direct patient care, how often do you get sick? my nurse friends that have left patient care comment about how their immune system was so strong and they had built up such immunity when they were giving patient care. Now they feel they get sick all the time because they're not in the hospital anymore which I think is odd. any tips or advice is much appreciated:)

calivianya, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

The only thing you didn't mention that I can find is how much you sleep per day. People underestimate how much sleep our bodies really need. I had terrible insomnia when I was younger (still do, really, but I manage it better now) and I was getting sick every other month just like you were talking about. I was running down my immune system like nobody's business because I would go multiple days in a row sleeping less than five hours a night for weeks at a time and I paid for it over, and over, and over again.

If you're not already taking a daily vitamin C supplement, it's not a bad idea to start. I swear that helped a little bit while I was going through the worst of the insomnia.

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

How much stress are you under when you're working? Does your work day have a nice ebb and flow with relaxing break times? Or are you chronically on the hamster wheel? Are you relaxed at home, or does work follow you? Do you have a nurturing home life or are there ongoing problems? And most important: how much quality sleep are you getting?

Handwashing and eating well are only parts of the equation. Unless your body gets regular breaks from churning out stress hormones, you may be a sitting duck.

FlyingScot, RN

Specializes in Peds/Neo CCT,Flight, ER, Hem/Onc.

I got sick all the time when I worked in the ED. I nearly died from a pneumonia I picked up in the PICU. I have barely been sick for the last 5 years or so. You know what changed? The grocery store started offering disinfectant wipes for the handles of the carts. I use them religiously. Barely a cold since then. Go figure!

cardiacfreak, ADN

Specializes in Hospice.

I wash my hands when I enter a patients room, glove up, do my business, remove the gloves, wash my hands before I leave the room, and then use the sanitizer in the hall. I can't say enough about hand washing.

From my own ironic experience, I worked in a hospital that had a plentiful supply of contagious pathogens. I think during the 8 years that I worked 40+ hour weeks there I was sick maybe once every two years with a respiratory infection....fast forward to having a child....who is not in daycare but touches everything and the inability to sleep off an infection now if I catch it, I'm sick every month or so. Usually she brings it home first but sometimes I do the honors. Now I'm not even working with contagious patients most of the time but have been sicker than any other time in my life. I would bet that there's something other than working in patient care causing you do get sick, especially if your washing your hands and following all other standard precautions. I wouldn't change jobs just yet.

thank you everyone. i'm sorry I forgot to mention that I am neurotic about sleep. I almost always get eight hours uninterrupted sometimes nine on a good day. I usually make sure to be in bed by 9:30 PM even on my off days. I take a daily multivitamin, 1 g vitamin C daily , Fish oil, biotin and Claritin. i'm religious about my vitamins and sleep. my fiancé wants kids right after we get married next year & I'm scared to death because I hear horror stories of how all these parents with small children are constantly sick and can never fight off the infections because they never have time to sleep. 😁

i'm also critical with my use of hand sanitizer out in the world. I'm always wiping down things, wiping off steering wheels, sanitizing my hands before I get in the car after the grocery store, etc. A friend brought to my attention several articles that blame hand sanitizer as the reason for getting sick/bug resistance which I find hard to believe, saying it's depleting my immune system. crazy.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

if you give direct patient care, how often do you get sick?
I have not had the flu since 1995. I catch the sniffles once a year. I rarely become sick. My immune system seems solid.

Then again, I'm not the cleanest person in the world. I live like a slob and my house hasn't been cleaned in years. My work scrubs are washed in the same load as my regular clothes, and I do nothing special to disinfect them. I walk around the house in my work shoes. I take baths and showers using plain soap and/or body wash.

There's such a thing as being too clean. The more we use hand sanitizers, antibacterial soap, and antiseptics, the more we reduce our immunity. Germs are good to an extent because they bolster our defenses.

FlyingScot, RN

Specializes in Peds/Neo CCT,Flight, ER, Hem/Onc.

I should say that I do not sanitize everything for that very reason. But after watching multitudes of little two-legged Petri dishes slobbering all over the cart handles the ick factor finally got to me.

MunoRN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

Your immune system is like your muscles, they both only get stronger when challenged. If you've spent your whole life making sure your muscles never have to do any work then they aren't going to be that strong, same goes for your immune system.

I have not had the flu since 1995. I catch the sniffles once a year. I rarely become sick. My immune system seems solid.

Then again, I'm not the cleanest person in the world. I live like a slob and my house hasn't been cleaned in years. My work scrubs are washed in the same load as my regular clothes, and I do nothing special to disinfect them. I walk around the house in my work shoes. I take baths and showers using plain soap and/or body wash.

There's such a thing as being too clean. The more we use hand sanitizers, antibacterial soap, and antiseptics, the more we reduce our immunity. Germs are good to an extent because they bolster our defenses.

Your post brought tears to my eyes.....I thought I would get flammed if I posted my "unclean" actions which mimic yours....except I pay for a house cleaning service:). Only since I've gotten older (63), have I gotten a cold once or twice a year.

A doctor mentioned that during WW II measles would sweep through the work/concentration camps. The better fed, healthier, guards would get sicker and have worse cases/reactions than the inmates. It turns out the immune system kicks into overdrive when it is stressed. I'm very poorly interpreting the results, but you get the idea, which is the immune system is so complex the average nurse and even doctor cannot completely understand it.

Edited by TheCommuter
[/QUOTE] tags

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

I have an afterthought...

I was constantly sickly during childhood with chronic sniffles and colds several times per year. My parents smoked in the house and car. Uncoincidentally, I stopped becoming sick the moment I moved out of their house.

A physician once explained that the children of smokers are more prone to illness because constant exposure to passive smoke causes the child's immune system to literally fall asleep at the wheel. It's interesting...

emtb2rn, BSN, RN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency.

I rarely got sick before i became a nurse and now after 7 years in the er, my immune system has become something like sandman slim.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pedi.

happy Sunday :)

I'm curious about all of your thoughts on this; I have been a nurse for five years. I have a very healthy lifestyle -I do not drink alcohol, I do not smoke, I eat very clean, I exercise, I'm not ever around small children, I should be the picture of health. I do everything right. For the past year and a half I have caught debilitating colds on average every 2-3 months. I have changed nothing in this time frame, I live in the same area, I'm diligent about hand hygiene - I work on a PCU floor 2 to 3 times a week and I even wear a mask year round (seems a lot of patients tend to cough all over me with no regard covering their mouth).

this is so disturbing to me - I've called in sick so much in the past year, and it's really affecting my quality-of-life and my fiancé thinks something is wrong with me. He has never had the flu in his life, he has never caught a cold and he has an immune system made of steel.

I'm considering leaving patient care because of this I can't think of any other rhyme or reason as to why I get knocked down every two months with a nasty cold, sore throat headache congestion that last 7 to 10 days. My pcp is hands-off, says it's bad luck & all my test are negative. When I'm well I'm 100%- I feel great I have no ailments & everything is good, and then boom I get knocked down.

my question to you -if you give direct patient care, how often do you get sick? my nurse friends that have left patient care comment about how their immune system was so strong and they had built up such immunity when they were giving patient care. Now they feel they get sick all the time because they're not in the hospital anymore which I think is odd. any tips or advice is much appreciated:)

Haha well I drink alcohol regularly, am around small children all the time (pediatric nurse here), haven't really cleaned my house in months and all I ate today was cheese and ice cream and I NEVER get sick. Seriously. The last time I called out sick for being acutely ill was at least 4 years ago. I did get strep throat last year from a patient but, as I'd just returned from the developing world, I originally assumed it was malaria. 10 days of PCN and I was as good as new, no work days missed either.

I didn't want to be the first one to bring up the lack of alcohol.. :inlove:

edmia, BSN, RN

Specializes in Emergency, ICU.

i'm also critical with my use of hand sanitizer out in the world. I'm always wiping down things, wiping off steering wheels, sanitizing my hands before I get in the car after the grocery store, etc. A friend brought to my attention several articles that blame hand sanitizer as the reason for getting sick/bug resistance which I find hard to believe, saying it's depleting my immune system. crazy.

I think this over-sanitizing you're doing doing might be contributing to your low immune response. You need to expose the immune system to pathogens in order to prime it for action. If you're always killing everything, you're not allowing your immune system to work. Also, you're killing off good bacteria that is meant to keep bad bacteria in check. There are plenty of studies talking about the perils of too much sterilizing/cleaning of everything. Look them up.

Sent from my iPhone -- blame all errors on spellcheck

I'm adding my weight to the weak immune system crowd.

You're making yourself sick.

Go play in the dirt or something. It's good for you. Garden without gloves. Pet a dirty dog. Give a dirty kid a big fat smackeroo on the lips. Don't sanitize the handles at the grocery store.

You've got to exercise that immune system. It has no idea how to handle pathogens because you're overcleaning and oversanitizing your life. Every time you come across a germ, your immune system is throwing little baby punches that are totally ineffective. You need to build it up until it can knock the germs out.

Sure, you'll be sick as a dog, for a month or so. Once you have caught everything that's going around and have beaten it, you will go much longer in between sick periods. You will be able to fight off the lesser bugs without getting sick and will have an easier time when you do catch something.

I only wash my hands after using the bathroom, before cooking, and before eating. (Except at work, where I wash my hands at least 50 times a shift.) I only sanitize the bathrooms and the kitchen once a weekish, sometimes once a monthish. I kiss my dogs frequently and pet their dirty little selves barehanded. I garden barehanded.

I rarely catch anything except stomach viruses anymore, and the last one of those was four years ago. The last time I had the flu was in 1997. The last time I had a cold was in 2003. Of course, now that I've said this, I will probably catch the Superflu. (Stephen King reference for my nerdy friends.)

Wrench Party

Specializes in Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgical.

Yeah, I'm also in the "you're sanitizing yourself into oblivion" camp and pretty terrible by OCD cleaning standards. My house gets cleaned with vinegar or those natural cleaners, I wash my clothes with earth-friendly detergents and hang most things outside to dry, my scrubs go into the same general laundry pile as my regular clothes (however, they go directly into the laundry room hamper), I'm oblivious to sanitizing carts at the grocery store, I drink raw goat milk, swim in a public swimming pool, my friends' little kids and dogs slobber all over me, and in general I only use hand sanitizer when camping. I wash my hands well at work though.

I've got food poisoning exactly twice over the past few years, and that ironically was from well-cooked takeout food.

However, I make an effort to eat healthy, I don't drink alcohol anymore, exercise, and avoid secondhand cigarette smoke when out. I used to suffer from chronic ear infections and allergies as a kid, but I think that having a hyperactive immune system has worked out in my favor as an adult.

Boog'sCRRN246, RN

Specializes in Utilization Management.

I have an afterthought...

I was constantly sickly during childhood with chronic sniffles and colds several times per year. My parents smoked in the house and car. Uncoincidentally, I stopped becoming sick the moment I moved out of their house.

A physician once explained that the children of smokers are more prone to illness because constant exposure to passive smoke causes the child's immune system to literally fall asleep at the wheel. It's interesting...

This is the exact reason my dad quit smoking cold turkey when I was about 3 years old. I had constant ear infections. Although me imitating him taking a drag from a cigarette by trying to puff on my crayons may have had something to do with it, too :rolleyes:

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

This is the exact reason my dad quit smoking cold turkey when I was about 3 years old. I had constant ear infections. Although me imitating him taking a drag from a cigarette by trying to puff on my crayons may have had something to do with it' date=' too :rolleyes:[/quote']

You're fortunate your father kicked the habit early in your life. My parents continued to light up in the house until 2004, and they still continue to smoke in their cars in spite of their inability to afford the $6 packs of ciggies in this day and age.

And yes, I had the major ear infection at age three or four. It was a rite of passage for many of us who grew up in a cloud of carcinogens.

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