Among my coworkers and roommates, I’m known for being the last woman standing during cold and flu season. Maybe this is the extrovert in me talking, but I have a serious fear of losing my voice or being quarantined in my room, not to mention sore throats and sniffles — so I’ll do anything in my power to avoid getting sick!
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When January rolled around this year, I was excited for the start of another semester … until my roommate reported having an itchy throat and began to cough. But not to fear: I busted out my tried-and-true tricks for staying healthy, and I’m happy to say that I’m still illness-free in 2020. Here are four pieces of advice that you can follow to avoid a cold this winter.
Get your shot
If you haven’t yet gotten your flu shot, worry not — there’s no such thing as “too late.” Flu shots are the single best preventative measures against the flu, and are fully or partially subsidized by nearly every healthcare provider. If you are uninsured, many pharmacies offer flu shots at an affordable cost.
I have a daily and weekly schedule of things to sanitize, which I follow even when it isn’t cold and flu season. This is especially important because I live with roommates, with whom I share a bathroom and kitchen. Daily items include purse and backpack zippers, my water bottle, AirPods, and phone — weekly items include fridge handles, countertops, light switches, and doorknobs. Disinfecting wipes make sanitizing weekly items a quick chore (and help remove extra layers of grime). For my daily items, I bought a value bottle of hand sanitizer and pump it onto an old washcloth, then wipe my items down with the cloth.
Of course, washing your hands goes without saying, but take care to wash your hands extra thoroughly. Practice the “Happy Birthday” rule: Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice every time you wash your hands, and make sure to scrub between your fingers and under your nails.
Cold and flu season is prime time to bust out fruits and vegetables to keep your immune system strong. If you’re picky like me, try sneaking your veggies into fruit smoothies, which can make for a scrumptious, low-cost, and nutritious dessert. I buy bags of frozen fruit, fresh spinach, and unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and blend these ingredients together. My favorite combos are strawberry and banana; or mango, spinach, and peach. Other simple, healthy, and delicious foods are low-sodium chicken noodle soup (you can add celery, peas, and carrots) or whole wheat avocado toast.
Sharing isn’t caring (when you’re sick)
I’m no stranger to sharing food and drink with my besties, but if one of us is sick, I refrain — swapping saliva is one of the easiest ways to get sick. Instead, if someone wants a taste of my meal, I put it on a separate plate or container using unused utensils.
I also make it a point to avoid high-traffic, congested, or communal areas, where there’s a higher chance of getting coughed on or touching something that lots of other people have touched. I opt to study at home, rather than the library, and I roll my sleeve over my hand if I need to press a button on an elevator.
Stress less, sleep more
I’ve had many restless nights where I wasn’t able to sleep … all due to worrying about getting sick. Ironically, what always happened the next morning? I’d wake up sick! Studies have shown that those who experienced continuous stress were more susceptible to being sick, and I’ve proven this fact many times over. Sleep is when your body heals, so don’t skimp on it! If you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress, distractions such as writing in a gratitude journal or listening to calming music can help. Prayer and meditation are also great ways to quiet your mind before bedtime.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll need some rest. If you need me, I’ll be snuggled under the covers, drinking peppermint tea and watching my favorite trivia shows as a bedtime prelude.
Originally published on February 20, 2020.