February 26, 2020

How to keep healthy when people around you are sick

Sometimes, there is no way around getting sick. One of my friends often says that once one of their kids get sick, everybody in the family gets sick as the illness is passed from the child to other siblings and then eventually to the parents. It’s inevitable because the family lives together, eats together and is generally in close proximity with one another.

Typically, I am a very healthy person. I have not kept an exact count over the years, but in general, I am sick less than five times a year, whether it is the flu or a cold. A lot of the times, when I get a scratchy throat or a runny nose, I have a regimen that I follow that helps me recover quickly so that the illness does not blow up into something really awful. I think this is also apt because of the scare of the corona virus. Here is what I do.

Wash hands with warm soapy water before and after meals

One of my friends has what I thought was a strange practice. He likes to wash his hands both before and after any meal. The more I thought about it and the recent corona virus scare, the more I realized that he was very much ahead of his time. We do not wash our hands often enough, and I can probably count how many times I have washed my hands both before and after a meal on my hand (which is really not enough).

Our hands touch a lot of things – door knobs, money, keyboards, elevator buttons and all of these things, while not particularly dirty, have also been touched by many others who may or may not be sick. Why take a chance? Washing your hands is a simple and easy way of preventing illness.

Using hand sanitizer

I’m going to tell you a very embarrassing story of how I took hand sanitizer too far. I was in a meeting room working away when one of my managers came in to introduce someone that had dropped by the office from another country. The only thing that I was thinking about was using hand sanitizer, which is provided in every meeting room. I got up, shook hands with the coworker and then I, without really thinking, pumped out some hand sanitizer to wipe off my hands. To that new coworker, it looks like I am deathly afraid of germs from them. I never met them again, but nowadays, I try to use hand sanitizer whenever it may not be convenient to wash my hands.

A good tip: have spare bottles of hand sanitizer in your car, your backpack, your jacket – even without the corona virus, it is a good idea to keep your hands clean.

Avoid touching your face

I touch my face a lot. I think it’s a big tic of mine. I’m either scratching my eyes, touching my nose, maybe even touching my mouth, but I touch my face a lot. If you touch your face a lot, then I think it is extremely important to wash your hands more than you think is necessary. Certainly after getting out of the bathroom, but like my friend, maybe even before and after meals too.

Here is a good habit to build: before touching your face, give your hands a wash through your hand sanitizer. If you touch your face a lot, that means you will have relatively clean hands.

Fuel your body with good food

With people sick around you, or if you feel like you are about to come down with something, it is important to fuel your body with good food. Think about how awful something like deep fried chicken makes you feel after. It tastes good in the moment, but then you feel greasy and bloated after. Better to stick with food that makes you feel better after. My preferred food is warm and hearty soups. It can be chicken noodle soup, but often times, it is just something that is warm, filling and easy to digest.

Drink hot lemon water with honey

One of the first signs that I am coming down with an illness is a sore or scratchy throat. I can feel my body battling this illness. For me, one of the best ways to make sure that I am fighting this illness is to feel good as soon as possible. How do I battle a sore throat? With lemon water and honey. The lemon in the water gives me vitamin C, which helps with sickness, and the honey helps to soothe my sore throat. There’s something warm and comforting drinking hot lemon water as well that helps me feel better instantly (kind of like chicken soup).

Avoid other sick people as much as you can

When I was a kid, I had heard about how unhealthy smoking was for you. Although I’m not sure it has been proven, there is a strong correlation with smoking and diseases such as cancer or respiratory illnesses. So whenever people were smoking around me, I often held my breath so that I would not breath in any of the second hand smoke that was out there. It was a weird habit that I had, but I now adopt the same habit when people are coughing or sneezing around me. I try to hold my breath until I can get to a ‘free’ area and I definitely make sure that when I next use hand sanitizer, I am wiping down my hands and some of the areas of my face.

Avoid large crowds

As a secondary comment to the above, if there is something like the corona virus floating around, it would make sense to avoid places where large crowds of people gather. Trains or buses are bad places to be as you are in very close proximity to others that could be infected. Malls are also bad. Even supermarkets at busy times can be bad. You do have to go to the supermarket, so think of buying at those local shops or buying during off hours (during work or Friday nights) when the supermarkets are not so busy.

Exercise

Here, I’m not recommending that you go all out sprints or anything extremely strenuous. Even just a 15 – 30 minute short walk after dinner can do wonders. Even better if you can go outside to walk. Of course, if you already have a regular exercise practice, just continue what you are doing.

Getting adequate sleep and rest

It is important to get adequate sleep and rest. If you don’t, your body will not be functioning optimally, which means that you are more susceptible to disease and illness than if you were well-rested. Getting sleep and rest is especially important if you are sick, because if you’re like me when I’m sick, you probably do not want to do anything but try to get better.

See the doctor

I once interviewed a surgeon at the U of A and one of the things that we talked about was why people do not go to their doctors more. Now I have heard about the long wait times at hospitals, but I’m talking about the local clinics. You don’t have to go for every little thing, but anything that is ‘unique’, or something that has been around a long time and won’t go away (such as a cough or a flu) is worth a visit to the doctor. Most illnesses go away with time, rest and plenty of fluids, but for things that don’t go away, you want to make sure with the doctor that it isn’t more serious than you think.

Hydrating

My friend claims that whenever he gets a sore throat, he drinks a lot of alkaline water and it instantly prevents any illness that he would have had. I’m not sure I fully believe it, but I believe that hydrating is important, with whatever water you have available to you. Whenever I have gone to the doctor for a flu or a cold, they always say to drink plenty of fluids, so listen to your doctor!

Being and staying positive

This is a weird one, but stick with me here. Being and staying positive can influence your health, just as it can influence your life. You can see everything in your life as one big obstacle or roadblock, or you can see everything in your life as an opportunity. Your outlook on life will be different with different perspectives. I don’t know if it will work for you, but whenever I am sick, I think to myself “I will get better soon”. When I go to sleep, I think “I will be better in the morning”. Slowly, but surely, I get better – of course, part of it is the natural course of things – but having a positive outlook also means things such as needles or awful tasting medicine is bearable.


How do you stay healthy? What practices do you maintain?

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