Hannah Berman
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You notice an emptiness in your throat. Your tongue feels suddenly ineffective, and you recall sneezing earlier in the day. Then, the realization hits you like an armored vehicle going way past the speed limit — you’re sick. 

As a child, sickness might have entailed the joy of staying home and watching TV all day, but as an adult, it is much more cumbersome. You have to take care of yourself. To make matters worse, sickness can lead to missing work, and falling behind on deadlines is a fate that can feel worse than death. It may be impossible to avoid all germs, but luckily there are still precautions that one can take against illness. 

How can you prevent yourself from getting sick?

Getting vaccinated is the #1 way to prevent sickness, but here are a few more tips to stay healthy in the horrific germscape that is our world. 

1. Wash your hands.

Think about all the things you’ve touched today...and then think about everyone else who has probably touched the same things. The CDC recommends washing your hands as the easiest and most effective way to avoid catching cold. For cases where you can’t get to a suitable sink after touching something gross, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which will eliminate almost as many germs. 

2. Eat well.

You probably remember your parents cajoling you to eat your vegetables as a child. As annoying as it was, they were right to do so: vegetables provide your body with essential minerals, fibers and vitamins. The more greens you eat, the less likely you are to experience heart failure, obesity, or high blood pressure. When you’re starting to feel a sniffle coming on, fruits high in Vitamin C like oranges can also help boost your immunity. 

3. Drink lots of water.

The New York Times performed a study to invalidate the claim that drinking lots of fluids would help prevent catching cold, and their findings suggest that there isn’t as much correlation as many assume between fluid intake and flu prevention. However, staying hydrated remains a tried and true trick for promoting health, because dehydration leaves your body weak and susceptible. 

4. Exercise regularly.

Committing to an exercise routine may be daunting, but it’s important to keep your body in motion. Exercise releases endorphins which can help lessen pain, improve mood, and boost energy, all of which helps prevent sickness. Remember: exercise doesn’t always mean grinding at the gym for hours on hours; you can totally adjust your regime to fit your body and your needs. 

5. Go outside.

Even if sitting at home with the blinds closed all day sounds like your jam, you should try to make it outdoors for at least 20 minutes every day. The body needs Vitamin D, and there’s really no substitute for natural sunlight. 

6. Stress less.

This advice is, of course, much easier said than done. You’re probably aware that stress can affect your mood in a palpable way, but it also has bodily ramifications that you might not know about, including weakening your immune system. Everyone gets overwhelmed, but those who know how to deal with stress are much less likely to harm their own health. 

7. Don’t share space with others who are sick.

No one should be surprised that the easiest way to contract a disease is exposing yourself to its bacteria on purpose. When a loved one is sick, it can be hard to resist cuddling up to them as an attempt to make their misery more bearable. But when you consider that research conducted at MIT suggests that particles from a sneeze can travel up to 200 ft, it becomes a little easier to keep to your own space. In a similar vein, you should never share water glasses or toothbrushes. Keep your germs to yourself; hopefully, others will do the same.

8. Avoid excessive caffeine use.

Coffee in moderation can be a healthy choice, but when drunk excessively it can accelerate health concerns. It can cause insomnia and restlessness, increase your heart rate and throw you into a world of headache pain. Plus, caffeine can be addictive, and addiction of any sort has negative side effects on a person’s health.

What to do if you do get sick.

If your illness seems to be temporary but you still fear contagion or feel that you’re not well enough to come in, you’re likely going to need to call in sick to work. Most U.S. employees are given a certain allotment of sick days, so this shouldn’t be an issue unless you’ve already them all up. On the other hand, if your illness seems a little less temporary, you should try to secure sick leave, which would ensure that you would continue to be paid for the duration of your absence. 

FAQs

Q: How do you prevent getting the flu after being exposed?

A: If you’ve been exposed to the flu and it has made its way into your system, you’ll likely start seeing symptoms within two days. Before those symptoms hit, there are a few over-the-counter remedies that might help you after exposure to flu, such as Emergen-C, but they are not scientifically proven to work.

Q: How do I stop being sick quickly?

A: Sickness cannot usually be sped up — it runs on its own schedule — but there are ways to make it more bearable. Taking a hot shower, drinking tea, and eating soup can help unclog your painfully blocked sinuses; a mouthful of honey or salt water can make your throat less sore. 

Q: How can I get rid of a cold in 24 hours without medication?

A: Rest might be difficult to achieve as a working adult, but it really is the best way to help your body fight off germs. Don’t push your body to its limit; if you do, it will take much longer to recover.

Wishing you a speedy recovery and a healthier lifestyle going forward!

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