THE BLOG
10/17/2012 10:23 am ET | Updated Dec 17, 2012

How to Not Get Sick

Everyone seems to be getting sick right now! In fact, it is very common to get sick during the transition between seasons. So while summer's currently turning into fall, which I'm very relieved to say after all this miserable heat, you should be taking extra precautions to protect your health. What brings up this topic is actually my current state of health: strep throat. Yep, and it sucks. I'm now on penicillin and should be healing quickly in no time, but the few days preceding my doctor's appointment were miserable. Getting sick means missing work, missing school, missing deadlines, infecting your family members... not fun. So, let's lay out the ways we can avoid getting sick during this time of year and a few tips for a speedy recovery if you do end up getting something nasty.

1. First thing's first: Wash your hands before every meal. Wait, didn't we learn this in kindergarten? Yes. But what you didn't learn in kindergarten was to wash your hands before picking your nose. Okay, just kidding (although that isn't the brightest idea). What I mean to say is don't touch your face, your food, etc. without washing your hands beforehand. You may be thinking, but I didn't even shake hands with anybody... Well, if you were out and about doing errands or going to work, it's likely you shook hands with a door handle, which greeted a lot of germs prior, some of which may have been contagious. And no, I'm not telling you to become a germ freak who washes their hands 100 times a day; just remember to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth, or anything that's going to go in any of those three things, without freshly-washed hands.

2. Don't share drinks, food, cigarettes, makeup, or tissues with anybody. Okay, the last one was obvious...

"Do you have a spare tissue?"
"Only this one"
*pulls wet, crumpled tissue out of pocket*
"Yeah that'll do, thanks!"

We all know not to share drinks and stuff, but we still seem to forget, especially when we're out with friends, at a special event, or just not thinking about the consequences. Your friend has a drink and says "Oh wow this is so good, try it!" and without thinking you do. Or you borrow someone's chapstick in the bathroom, take a bite out of someone's pizza, or "bum a drag" off a friend's cigarette. Especially during this time of year, if you really want to avoid getting sick, remember to take this precaution.

3. Drink lots of fluids. This one is very, very important. Sometimes we get sick just because we are dehydrated and not getting enough sleep, so our immune system shuts down. Sugar also shuts down your immune system. So by fluids I don't mean Kool Aid, Coke and sugary juices. I mean water, LOTS of water, which can be accompanied by natural fruit and vegetable juices, green tea, Kambucha, etc. Try to drink at least six glasses of water a day, if not more. Water flushes your body of the bad stuff, gives it energy and strength to fight off infection, and keeps you healthy.

4. As I mentioned in number three, getting enough sleep is crucial. Your body is in recovery mode when you sleep, but if you don't give your body that chance to rest, recover and restore, then you are much more prone to getting sick. Staying up til 4 a.m. night after night is a recipe for disaster if exposed to a virus or infection. Everyone should get between six and 10 hours of sleep every night, eight on average. Make this a habit, because even just a few days of getting very little sleep can lead to waking up with a sore throat or stuffy nose the next morning and thinking, "Dammit."

5. Now, if a family member is sick, be sure to take extra precautions around the house. Don't allow the sickie to dry their hands on the same towels as everyone else in the bathrooms and kitchen. Make sure they wash their hands before touching door handles in the house, cabinets, the refrigerator door, etc. Wash their dishes in the dishwasher on "sanitize" or "high heat," or keep them separate. And make sure if they have to sneeze or cough that they do it into their sleeve or a tissue and immediately wash their hands. If you catch the sickie sneezing into the air hands-free, feel free to exile them to their room for the duration of their illness.

6. Exercise! Exercise keeps your body healthy in all aspects, which in turn keeps your immune system up and running. Ha, get it? Okay, okay, but I swear to you that bad joke happened on its own without premeditation! Back to the important point I was trying to make; exercise is important at all times, but especially when you want to remain healthy and ward off illness.

So we now have some tips on not getting sick, but what if you're already sick while reading this article? Ah, irony. Don't ya love it? No? Okay. So tips on how to speed up the healing process when you're sick. I, in fact, have a few.

1. Take your vitamins! Everyone sighs in unison, "Yes, I have taken my vitamin C today." Well, that's great, but you forgot one of the most important immunity boosters: vitamin D3. Other important supplements you should be taking are a multivitamin, fish oil or anything containing omega-3s, vitamin B, and believe it or not, garlic can also be great for your immune system.

2. If you have a sore throat, which I have been currently battling, a few things have helped the most. Drinking plenty of hot tea, preferably green tea (I also add honey, which helps soothe the throat), gargling with warm salt water a few times a day (which helps kill bacteria), using Cepacol throat lozenges (contains Benzocaine and Menthol to numb your throat), and taking Ibuprofen or similar painkillers. But if you have strep throat, you need to go to the doctor and get on antibiotics. Symptoms of strep are a sore throat without any other cold symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, etc., often accompanied by a fever, chills, headaches and body aches, swollen lymph nodes, trouble swallowing, white flecks or bumps on the tonsils or lots of mucous, and nausea. And let me tell you, once you get on those antibiotics you are feeling 75 percent better within 24-48 hours.

3. It may be a little redundant, but get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water! And eat your leafy greens! Yes, we've heard it all before, because it is that important! Number one, in fact! Keep this up and you'll find yourself beginning to heal in no time.

4. Take it easy. And don't get out of bed and back to work too soon. If you do, you may cause yourself a relapse. And you do not want that! So do yourself a favor and lie low an extra day or two even after feeling better to give your body a chance to heal 100 percent. And if you're taking antibiotics make sure you finish them, even if you're feeling completely better halfway through. Stopping your antibiotics before you have finished the bottle can also cause a relapse. Then you gotta read this article all over again!

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