School has started up again, which means homework, learning, and contact with a bunch of people, friends or enemies. It also means sickness. How many times have you walked into school only to hear coughing, sniffling, and sneezing when it’s not even allergy season yet? Throughout the year, schools get several waves of sickness, often as the result of just one or two people infecting the majority of the student population, myself included. Schools are breeding grounds for sickness, but with some simple tips, you can prevent yourself from getting ill.
1. Do your work now. Procrastination and stress impair your immune system. Stress response has three stages: alarm reaction, resistance to the stressor, and exhaustion. During the first two stages, your body is on high alert trying to fight off whatever is stressing you out. However, if your situation has not changed for a while, your body cannot keep up the supply of stress-fighting hormones anymore, and your immune system is impaired (the final stage of stress response—exhaustion). Thus, when we all put off things to the last minute or pull an all-nighter, we stress and become more likely to become sick.
2. Zzzzzzzz. This kind of goes off of the previous point, but it deserves its own. Stress itself leads to a lack of sleep, which has been shown to make people more susceptible to viruses. While sleeping, the body releases protective proteins and other antibodies, aiding the immune system. Sleep also rejuvenates the body, repairing the damage from the previous day, and prepping for another stressful day. I know we all skimp on sleep sometimes, but try your best not to! Aim for at least 8 hours every night.
3. Colorful foods! I know, I know. That double chocolate cake with white chocolate shavings is calling for you, but put it down! Grab an orange and get some delicious vitamin C, or a carrot for vitamin A, or nuts for vitamin E. A diet full of fruits, vegetables , and whole grains (the entire food “pyramid”) is ideal. Eating healthy empowers your immune system to produce the antibodies it needs to fight infections.
4. Can I have that with extra H2O? Most people do not get enough water in the day. However, your cells and immune system need that water to work and stay in top game for their next big fight. Drink at least 8 glasses of fluids per day!
5. Calm down. Relieving the stress that impaired your immune function is key to staying healthy. Feeling a little high-strung? Go for a run or exercise – this will assist in the body’s circulation, forcing antibodies through the blood to wash away toxins.Feeling restless or overwhelmed? Distract yourself with an hour or two out with some friends, or with a fun, individual activity (browsing on Tumblr, anyone?). Deal with your stress in any way possible, just as long as you don’t procrastinate and stress yourself out even more.
6. Stay happy. According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon Unviersity, people who have a positive attitude (described as “happy, enthusiastic, and calm”) are those who do generally do not get colds. Positivity as a characteristic of a person seems to decreases their susceptibility to illness. Try not to stress too much and look on the bright side!
7. Be careful where you go. I left the most important one for last: have healthy habits. Wash your hands frequently, and if you cannot, at least remove germs via hand sanitizer. (Do not sanitize for too long without washing your hands though, or the sanitizer will become ineffective). Stay away from people who are visibly sick and avoid touching surfaces they have touched. Do not touch your face with your hands. Do not share food or drinks with others if you are at risk of getting sick.
If all of this advice fails, and the girl who you sat next to yesterday was actually sick with a cold, it’s OK! Drink some green tea with honey/ginger, eat some chicken noodle soup, have some spicy food, drink more water, and rest up! Only go to school if you know it is alright for you. Even though I have gone to school absolutely miserable from a cold, I would not recommend it. Try to relax at home for a day or two before going back, if necessary.
Soong, Jenifer. “Secrets of Super-Healthy People.” WebMD. WebMD, LLC, n.d. Web. 30 Aug.