Image: 30 Rock.
The idea of having a day off work to stay in bed might be enticing, but we can all agree being sick is nobody’s idea of fun.
At this time of year, catching a cold seems inevitable. There are more than 200 viruses associated with the common cold, so when you’re jammed into a bus with 40 snotty strangers or cooped up in an office all day, there’s a very good chance you’ll come into contact with one of them.
“You can only channel your energies into things you can change … you can’t avoid a cold or flu, people sit next to you and sneeze on you all day,” says Stephen Eddey, Principal of Health Schools Australia.
“When you are exposed to a virus, your body will go, ‘Argh, I’m onto that’ and it will kill it … Some people recover quicker from a cold. It’s not luck, it’s how much immunity you’ve got to kill these things.”
1. Maintain good hygiene
The first step is is a relatively straightforward one: keep on top of your general hygiene, particularly when it comes to your hands. “It’s the stuff you roll your eyes about — washing your hands with warm soapy water and making sure your house is aired out,” Eddey explains. (Post continues after gallery.)
Hand-washing has been described as a “do it yourself vaccine”, and can effectively prevent the spread of respiratory, food-bourne and diarrhoeal illnesses, which are often picked up through physical contact with other people and surfaces. Here’s a guide to doing it properly.
2. Try not to stress
This is less straightforward than Point 1, but equally important. Keeping your stress levels under control, to the best of your ability, can prevent you from becoming “run down” and help your body better fight off illness.
“When you’re stressed out, a hormone in your body called cortisol increases, and cortisol suppresses the immune system… this is why people get viral attacks like herpes and cold sores when they’re stressed,” Eddey explains.
Initially, Eddey says, this physiological response evolved to allow humans to survive; for instance, if a person was under attack from an animal, they wouldn't need their immune system in that moment.
However, these days we tend to be stressed about a lot of different things all the time — jobs, relationships, mortgages, finances, the list goes on — and it's affecting our physical health. Plus, falling sick when you're already stressed is only going to stress you out more.