The last bug I caught was a doozy.
I had gone five years without calling in sick for work, and then just days into a new job, I came down with the worst throat infection I’d ever experienced! I had to miss several days of work because the pain and fever were so bad that I could hardly get out of bed.
The bug weakened my immune system so much that even when I recovered from the worst of it, I kept catching new viruses and was pretty much constantly sick for three months straight.
That was four years ago. And, perhaps miraculously, I haven’t been sick since!
Oh, there have been times when I thought I was coming down with something – a tickle in my throat, a sudden stuffy nose – but it never turned into anything. It’s like whatever bug I was exposed to got its butt kicked by my immune system.
This past year seemed to be the real test – it seemed that all throughout the winter, spring, and even summer, everyone around me was constantly getting sick. I was the only person who didn’t catch anything.
Maybe it was just luck, but I have been following a few practices that I believe have helped me stay healthy. And with autumn in full swing, I thought I would share what I attribute my new and improved immune system to. Because the flu and cold season is coming and no one has time for that!
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[Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and the following post is just information on what has been working for me personally. I am not claiming that if you do these things you will not get sick. I have researched each of these tips and cited my sources. But you should always consult a doctor before making any changes in regards to your health.]
Here are the practices that have been working for me!
Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
First off, if you have small children then I get that this one might be pretty much impossible. But even if you do have any control over your sleep schedule, prioritizing your sleep sounds easier than it is.
Lots of research indicates that sleep deprivation can suppress the immune system, making it more likely to succumb to sickness during the cold and flu season.
Not only that, how much sleep you get actually affects how well you recover from illness after you are infected.
Having a solid evening routine really helps. More often then not, I am in bed by 9:30. Yes, I realize this is the bedtime of a seven-year-old, but it’s the only way to get my eight hours in and still be able to get up in time to exercise before work.
I also use a sleep tracking app to keep tabs on not only how long I’m sleeping each night, but how much quality sleep I’m getting. The app for the iWatch is called AutoSleep and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in tracking your sleep!
Washing hands frequently
When I get to work every day, the first thing I do before I even sit at my desk and turn on my computer is go to the ladies room to wash my hands and dry them with paper towel. This is mostly because I’m always hitting up the Tim Hortons drive-thru for my morning coffee fix, and any time I touch money I feel the need to wash my hands.
Studies show that washing your hands more than six times a day reduces your risk of getting sick. Just make sure you moisturize after because over-washing can cause dry, cracked skin which exposes you to germs.
I rarely use hand-sanitizer, as it seems that most sanitizers might actually do more harm than good.
Not touching doors or my face
Yes, we are getting into “germaphobe” territory but in my opinion, you can never be too careful. I always use my jacket sleeve or shirt sleeve to open doors, and when leaving the ladies room I use paper towel.
Despite all your hand washing and doorknob-avoiding, you’re still bound to touch contaminated surfaces during the day, especially if you’re out in public places or at the office. Therefore, it’s just as important to avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! I’ve gotten a lot better at this in recent years, but it takes a concerted effort not to rub your eyes without thinking!
Oil of Oregano at the first sign of trouble
Full disclosure, this tip on how to not get sick could be nothing more than a placebo effect. In the (limited) research that’s been done on oil of oregano, there doesn’t seem to be any definitive science that supports OOO as a cold & flu panacea. I did find one study that found evidence that the oil of oregano plant has antioxidant and medicinal properties but that’s not to say that the essential oil works.
But I’m telling you from personal experience… Any time I felt like something is coming on and I took a couple drops mixed in with water, I wouldn’t get sick.
However, if you’re thinking of trying it, approach with caution; Oil of Oregano is some pretty potent stuff. Even one or two drops mixed in a glass of water is extremely strong, and it tastes horrible.
Also, some people experience gastrointestinal discomfort when taking it, so if you’re not sure about it, ask your doctor first.
If you’re going to try it, make sure you’re getting high-quality stuff with at least 80% carvacrol. (Affiliate link below!)
I just started using essential oils this past year, and again, there hasn’t really been enough scientific research to support how well they actually work. What the limited research has found so far is that some essential oils do contain antibacterial or antiviral properties.
So there’s a notable lack of science, but I have to say I am loving them! If you’re curious to try them, I highly recommend Saje products. I picked up this cute little “Pocket Farmacy” kit and it comes with their immunity essential oil. It also comes with oils for headaches, tummy upset, pain relief, and stress release. The vials are small but they last a very long time! (Affiliate link below.) My spouse calls these my “wizard potions”, but I’m obsessed, particularly with their “Peppermint Halo” oil for headaches.
This one is 100% scientifically backed. When you exercise, you raise your internal temperature and create an inhospitable environment for viruses. It also improves your circulation which helps carry your T cells (or white blood cells) to get to where they’re needed!
What I find interesting is that vigorous exercises show the best results in preventing cold and flu. (Yet another reason to embrace high-intensity interval training!) One study found that women who exercised vigorously for 2.5 hours a week reduced their risk of getting sick by 50%!
Even more interesting is that exercise over the long-term has an accumulative effect on boosting your immune system!
Now that I’ve flaunted my mad immunity skillz, I’ll probably catch a cold right after I post this. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve written about a topic only to be served up some fresh irony a week later.
But that’s another story for another time!
It could just be a crazy coincidence, but four years is a pretty long time to be bug-free – it’s definitely a personal record! And the majority of these tactics have the science to back them up. So instead of wondering how to not get sick this year, just stock up on sleep, soap, and exercise gear.