If you’ve been anywhere near a news feed this last week, you’ve probably heard that this year’s flu isn’t here to play (mom sidebar: have you gotten your flu shot?) and with February right around the corner, you know ish is about to get real.
Whether you’re a college student living in shared housing, or you’re in the workforce schlepping it to a shared office space, chances are you’ll be exposed to something icky this winter. Even if you’ve already gotten sick this winter (*waving hand emoji*) you should take some extra precautions to keep yourself from getting sick and prepare yourself for the possibility of getting sick.
And when you’re a college student or baby adult, taking care of yourself when you’re sick can be a real test of your adulting limits – especially if you live alone. Obviously, I am just a person on the internet ™ and not a doctor, so none of this should take the place of medical advice from a professional, but here are my best tips for taking care of yourself when you’re sick in college:
Call It Off
Look, I remember what it’s like to be a college student; you’re spending a cool sum on your classes and it’s hella easy to fall behind. It’s the same in the workforce; you’ve got deadlines, projects, and responsibilities that you feel guilty for hoisting on your coworkers when you need a sick day. But trust me – stay home. No one wants to catch the thing you have, and you could put people in danger if they’re immuno-suppressed or have little kids at home.
If you just have a case of the sniffles or you’re getting out of the woods, you’re probably cool to go to work or class, but if you’ve got a fever or a persistent cough or sneezing, stay home and rest.
See a Doctor
This is just for me and my anxious lizard brain, but I like to know what I have rather than just WebMDing my symptoms until I’m convinced I have cancer. Even if you have a nasty cold or something that you won’t get a prescription for, you still get the peace of mind of knowing what it is you’re dealing with, plus some ace advice from your doctor.
This is especially true if you’re sick for three or more days; if you’re in the workforce, you may need to provide a doctor’s note depending on your company’s policy. Plus, if you’re a college student, there’s probably a free clinic on campus – you should make use of it!
Your body needs a lot of water when you’re healthy, so it makes sense that you’d need to pay even more attention to hydration when you’re not feeling your best (this is especially true if you are losing water via vomiting or digestion issues, if you know what I mean).
Tea is an especially good choice here; warm water is soothing to sore or scratchy throats, adding honey will give you an antimicrobial boost, and herbal blends like ginger or peppermint can help soothe nausea and congestion. You could even go the extra mile and make this immune boosting golden milk tea with turmeric, black pepper, and ginger. Plus, you know, hygge, relaxation, etc.
If you are vomiting, be extra sure to drink something that replenishes electrolytes, like sports drinks or coconut water.
Get Some Sleep
And get some dang sleep! Studies have shown that we need extra sleep when we’re sick; your body needs time to fight off whatever it needs to fight off. Aim for at least 8 hours a night. Naps are great, too, if you’re not too uncomfortable to nap.
When you’re sick, the absolute last thing you want to do is prep food (especially if you’re nauseous or can’t keep food down) but how can you expect to get better if your body has no fuel?
I like keeping mason jars of homemade soup in my freezer just in case I get sick or can’t cook (like homemade chicken soup, which studies have shown is for you when you’re sick, or the last two servings of whatever soups I’ve made recently) that I’ll just take out, put in the fridge to thaw, and nuke when I’m not feeling my best.
If you’re not super handy in the kitchen or you don’t have a lot of space, stocking up on canned chicken broth or soup is better than nothing. If soup isn’t your thing, either, or you’re just getting over a bout of vomiting, BRAT foods are also great (plus they’re easy to prepare).
Exercise May Help
You’re probably not squeezing in a full lifting session or a five mile run when you’re recovering from the flu or a nasty cold, but some gentle exercise, like yoga or a brisk walk, may help you recover more quickly (or at least help you get back into your pre-sick routine). If you have a fever though, or extreme tightness of breath, sit this one out.
Being sick is no fun and taking a sick day can come with a lot of guilt, so double down on your day off with some bomb self-care, like giving yourself a pedicure (especially if you’ve got #wintertoes….you know what I’m talking about).
If you have a comforting ritual for being sick from when you were a kid, like drinking Sprite or ginger ale or watching a metric effton of Disney movies, do that thing. If you have a book you’ve been dying to crack the spine on but haven’t found the time to read, read the dang book. If being physically sick adds strain to your mental health, be sure to take extra time to take care of yourself in whatever way you need.
What do you think?
What do you do to care for yourself when you’re sick? Do you have any sick rituals from your childhood that you still do? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!