Winter means getting sick for many of us. Whether you’re battling an illness or trying to prevent it, here are a few things you can do to get through it like a champ.
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10. Know What You’re Dealing With
If you feel an illness coming on, knowing what it is can help you treat it best. Usually, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a cold, allergies and the flu: The flu is usually more severe than a cold, with a higher fever soreness, and exhaustion. Allergies often come with itchy eyes, mouth, and throat in addition to the normal coughing and congestion you see in a cold. If you aren’t sure (or you think it’s something else), a doctor may be able to help you better diagnose your illness. Once you know what it is, you can tackle it more effectively.
9. Get Through The Doctor’s Office Quickly
If you need to go to the doctor, make sure you aren’t wasting lot of time in the office by being prepared to get through the appointment as efficiently as possible. Don’t take this time to ask your doctor about every other malady you’ve experienced in the past year and make sure you know when the illness started, how long it’s been going on, whether it comes and goes and if anything makes it better or worse. Lastly, make your appointment at the optimal time to avoid a long wait.
8. Take A Sick Day
If you’re just feeling a little stuffy, you might be fine to go to work, but you’re better off not infecting everyone else — and if you have something more serious, you should definitely stay home. Try not to overwork yourself, and get others to cover your work so you don’t fall behind (and stress out about it). And remember: if this is the first break you’ve had in months, you probably need to slow down!
Stressing yourself out — mentally and physically — can make it harder to recover from an illness (not to mention it might be what got you sick in the first place). So once you’ve got your sick day lined up, do whatever it takes to relax and recover. Turn off your phone, do some yoga, or take a long hot shower — whatever helps.
6. Exercise (If You Can)
Exercising will not only help you accomplish #5, it can even help alleviate your symptoms — in some cases. Experts recommend the “neck test” to see if exercise is OK: if your symptoms are only above the neck (as with a head cold), you’re fine to exercise. Below-the-neck symptoms, like chest congestion, nausea or a fever, mean you should probably stay in bed. Above all else, if your body tells you it’s too tired to do something, don’t do it. Check out this list of good exercises when you’re sick to see what helps (and what doesn’t). And stay away from the gym, please — you don’t want to get everyone else sick!
5. Alleviate Your Symptoms With The Right Remedies
The first thing most of us do when we have a cold is load up on meds from the chemist. Some are good, and some are just a waste of money. Home remedies like gargling salt water or using a neti pot are great ways to alleviate your symptoms, while a lot of “alternative remedies” like vitamin C and echinacea haven’t been shown to be very effective. (Zinc is a possible exception, though — it may be able to shorten the duration and severity of a cold, but it’s still being researched). Never underestimate the benefits of a nice, steamy shower.
4. Know When To Ride It Out
Suppressing your symptoms with medication may not always be the best way to get through an illness. If you have a dry, hacking cough, for example, suppressing it can help — but if it’s a productive cough with lots of mucus, it’s better to keep coughing it up than suppress it. Similarly, if you have a low fever, you might want to let it run its course — after all, you’re staying home, right?
3. Eat Well And Drink Right
Among the other home remedies, your regular meals and drinks can help you ride out an illness, if you pick the right things. Chicken soup, for example, really is good to eat when you’re sick — the broth keeps you hydrated, the heat opens up your nasal passages, and the chicken contains cysteine, which helps thin mucus. Tea is a great drink for when you’re sick, too. Check out the best foods and drinks for when you’re sick for more info and eat up!
2. Don’t Spread It To Others
It may be too late for you, but if you have a family, roommates or others in your living space, you can avoid spreading it to them. Make sure you clean these overlooked places in your home and disinfect anything you share with them — especially your computer, tablet or phone. Beyond that, do the obvious: wash your hands often, cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze, and stay out of everyone’s way.
1. Avoid Getting Sick Next Time
Prevention is the best medicine, and the battle doesn’t stop once your illness is gone. If you want to prevent sickness in the future, you need to ensure that you get enough sleep every night, wash your hands, and generally take care of yourself (so avoid smoking or drinking too much). And, just like when you have the cold, avoid the stuff that doesn’t work, like megadosing on vitamin C and echinacea. Check out our No-BS guide to boosting your immunity for more info, and stay healthy out there!
This article originally appeared in February 2014. It has been updated since its first publication.