Eight Rules For Minimizing Your Chances of Getting Sick
No one likes getting sick. While completely avoiding sickness is impossible, getting sick less often is certainly a reasonable goal for the average person. With a few simple steps, your chances of becoming ill can be significantly reduced. Here are the eight rules you should follow to minimize your risk of sickness.
- Wash your hands. It turns out your mother knew what she was talking about: regularly washing your hands is one of the best things you can do to stay sickness-free. You should wash your hands after every trip to the bathroom, before making or eating a meal, after blowing your nose, and following any interaction with a sick person. Just remember that the water should to be hot. Be sure to also use plenty of soap, since water on its own doesn’t do much against germs.
- Minimize time spent around sick people. One of the easiest ways to catch something is to be around someone who is contagious. While avoiding the ill entirely may be impossible, try to stay away as much as possible. If someone you live with is sick, take precautions such as using different towels, disinfecting all surfaces (particularly in shared areas), washing your hands frequently, and (if possible) avoiding their sickroom. Outside of the home, minimize time spent in crowded, indoor, public places. Malls, restaurants, movie theaters, and the like are generally rife with germs.
- Get good sleep. Researchers have found that those who receive quality sleep are significantly less likely to get sick. That’s likely because the immune system, the body’s natural defense against pathogens, cannot function at its best without proper nightly rest. For example, not enough sleep means that the body produces fewer infection-fighting antibodies. Even vaccines are less effective among those with sleep problems.
- Avoid drugs and cigarettes and minimize alcohol consumption. Tobacco and most illegal drugs are terrible for you, disrupting the body’s normal, healthy functioning while also harming the immune system. For example, cigarettes massively increase the risk of getting respiratory infections. While alcohol isn’t nearly as harmful, cutting down on drinking is still smart. Large quantities of alcohol can weaken the immune system, reducing the number of infection-fighting cells in the body and handicapping anti-pathogen capabilities. A drink or two a day, however, should do no harm.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a nutritious diet is one of the best ways to keep the immune system (and the body as a whole) in good condition. Aim to consume a balanced diet featuring plenty of fruits and vegetables (which are both frequently stocked with valuable disease-fighting antioxidants). On the flip side, minimize intake of red meat and sweet, fatty, or processed foods. Staying well hydrated will also help keep the immune system in good working order.
- Minimize stress. Stress doesn’t just make you feel anxious — it can also harm your health. Stress weakens the immune system, making you more vulnerable to pathogens. For example, people who suffer from major stress are more likely to get colds. Stress can also increase your risk of sickness by disrupting sleep or triggering unhealthy coping behaviors such as substance abuse or overeating. While some stress is probably inevitable, the amount you experience can be reduced by relaxing more, avoiding overwork, and getting enough sleep.
- Exercise. A crucial aspect of overall good health, regular exercise can also make the immune system strong. While the exact process remains unclear, research has shown that working out regularly is closely associated with a reduced risk for sickness. Cardio exercise, for example, appears to increase the number of white blood cells (which help fight off infections) found in the bloodstream. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a workout fiend to gain these benefits. Just a half hour of exercise three or four times a week is sufficient to lower your chances of getting sick.
- Get a flu shot. Incidences of sickness rise during winter. The most serious illness common during this season is definitely the flu. The flu can keep victims miserable for weeks. In worst case scenarios, it can even be fatal. That’s why getting a flu immunization shot every year is a great idea (especially if you are elderly or already in poor health). The flu vaccine is a simple, easy way to keep safe from an illness as common as it is nasty. It’s best to get the shot early before the flu season reaches its height.
There are few things more miserable than being sick. Even a common cold, probably the mildest of all illnesses, can still make you feel simply terrible. While no one can stay completely safe from sickness, doing the most you can to protect yourself is just good common sense. Follow the eight practical rules described above and your risk will be kept to a minimum.