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It’s that time of year. Everyone around you has the sniffles, uncontrollable coughs, sick days, and sore throats. I am currently writing this while sick…it’s not a good time.
As a biology major for undergrad and grad school, I learned a lot about our bodies and the multitude of bacteria and viruses we are exposed to. One of my favorite classes was Virology, I learned so many cool things and it’s pretty incredible how much damage a tiny, tiny organism can cause us. You know what else is fascinating? Our bodies consist of billions of cells that are literally fighting for our lives when “attacked.” Which is exactly why we don’t get sick every single time we are exposed to viral or bacterial infections!
Check out the short but informative video below for a brief explanation!
Increased body temperature (a fever), runny nose, and sneezing are all mechanisms that our bodies use to fight bad bacteria. So while it can be quite uncomfortable and awful, be grateful for your immune system working for you and ONLY you!
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
Citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, papaya, spinach, ginger and garlic are known to boost your immune system. Most of this provide essential vitamins and nutrients (Vitamin C primarily), but each is unique in fighting disease in your body. It’s definitely worth it to eat plenty of fresh (or lightly cooked) fruits and veggies year round!
Drink a lot of water
Drinking plenty of water is beneficial for a number of reasons. However, staying hydrated ensures that your nasal passages stay moist. The mucus membrane of your nose is your body’s first line of defense against infection! And while warm drinks such as coffee and tea feel great for your throat, keep in mind that caffeinated beverages dehydrate you so make up for that by drinking more water!
Wash your hands correctly
The number of objects we touch per day covered in bacteria and viruses is alarming! Of course our body can typically defend against those organisms, but do yourself a favor and wash your hands frequently and correctly! Lather them with soap for at least 20 seconds and be sure to get under your finger nails! Also either use your elbow or a paper towel to shut off the faucet, and use the towel you used to dry your hands to open the restroom door if necessary.
Wash your hands after using the restroom (I’m still shocked by the number of women don’t wash their hands after using a public restroom), before eating, and after being in a public place.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
The three passage ways for common bacterial/viral infections are the eyes, nose, and mouth! Rubbing your eyes, picking your nose, biting your finger nails, rubbing on chapstick etc. are all going to expose you even more to sickness. It’s a difficult habit to break but try your best to stop!
At the end of the day flush your nostrils/blow your nose
After work or being around a lot of people blow your nose! Since the mucus membranes in your nose should have been doing their job all day (aka your boogers), a bunch of bacteria and organisms may be trapped in your nostrils! Get the gunk out of there for double protection!
Bundle up if you go outside
The common cold, the flu, strep throat, etc. are caused by viruses and bacteria NOT cold weather. However, colder temperatures weaken your immune response due to your mucus passages drying out! Viruses themselves can also live longer in cold temperatures, causing all of us to be exposed to them longer. During the colder seasons, us humans also tend to segregate more indoors which equals more contact and exposure. You really can’t do too much to protect your passages from the cool air, but try your best to bundle up!
Take your vitamins consistently
If you take a multivitamin and other vitamins, especially Vitamin C…be sure to take them consistently!! If your body is used to receiving a supplement everyday, then you randomly stop, it may freak out. By freak out I mean get really sick right away. I’ve seen this happen to many people time and time again. This is called the rebound effect.
Honestly, I don’t think Vitamin C has really been proven to prevent colds. But if it’s something you’re used to taking then keep taking it, or slowly reduce your dosage if you want to stop taking it!
If you do end up getting sick
Unfortunately, humans are not invincible so you’re bound to get sick at some point even if you take really, really good care of yourself. So if you do get sick just remember how hard your body is working for you 🙂
Allow your body to fight it off first
If you end up getting sick during the weekend or your time off (during a time where you will be home most of the day), try your best to let your body heal itself. This is a great way to increase the strength of your immune system. All of the symptoms that you are experiencing are happening for a reason, so stopping them may slow down the healing process. If you have to go to work it’s really difficult to concentrate and/or exist when your body is aching and your nose won’t stop running, so it’s reasonable to start taking medication. Keep it simple though, don’t drown your insides with every cold medicine you come across!
Eat pineapples/drink pineapple juice for cough
Apparently all-natural pineapple juice is one of the best cough remedies! It contains an ingredient which helps break down mucus, reduces pain, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s worth a shot considering it tastes so amazing. Eat fresh pineapple, blend it up, drink the juice, and feel better!
Drink lots of water
Just like water is important BEFORE you get sick and ALWAYS, drink plenty while you are sick as well. Again water will prevent dehydration, which is important because dehydration makes your symptoms worse. Water also helps to flush your system out, which is always important. When you’re sick it’s easy to sleep the day away and/or lose your thirst, but it’s really important to intake those fluids, especially if you’re experiencing any sort of vomiting or diarrhea. Avoid caffeine, soda, and sugary drinks as well!
Drink tea with fresh squeezed lemon and honey
Along with water, tea is your best friend while under the weather! I personally prefer sipping on hot chamomile tea with a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon. It tastes amazing and helps so much! I also like to use Earl Grey tea but the caffeine may not be so beneficial. If you don’t have any tea on hand or don’t like tea, just drink hot water with honey and lemon instead!
Throw out your tooth brush/clean your sheets/deep clean water bottles
After you start feeling better, be sure to toss your tooth brush, clean any contaminated sheets and clothes, and deep clean reusable mugs/water bottles! You don’t want to keep exposing yourself to the same gunk you’ve had all week, it’s so nice to clean everything once you feel better!
Should you workout/go to the gym?
If you’re an avid gym goer like myself, skipping the gym even when you feel crummy is not your favorite thing to do. Personally, if I just have a stuffy nose, light sore throat, and/or sinus pressure (above the neck symptoms) I will still work out. If I have muscle aches, it’s a no-go! Also avoid the gym if you have upset stomach, nausea, or any other symptoms “below the neck.” Also, keep in mind that you may get other people sick at the gym, so be considerate and wipe down your equipment especially well when you’re done.
Hopefully with these tips you can help ward off those icky symptoms!