I don't want to be sick ever again.
June 17, 2010 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me from getting sick over and over again....What are your best long-term, cost-effective methods of staying healthy?

So, it's June, 100 degrees outside, and i'm currently sick with a cold. Again. This is the 4th time since January that I've had a cold, and now I'm determined to keep myself healthy.

I workout a lot (2-3 hours a day), so I think this could be a factor, however, that's something I can't change (training for some things). Given that constraint. What else can I do? Thing I' already do:

1) Get Adequate sleep (7-8 hours a night).
2) Drink a lot of water.
3) Take a multi-vitamin everyday (thought I'm inconsistent with this)
4) Diet. I eat paleo, with lots of fruits and vegetables everyday.

Things I want to do:

1) Abstain from alcohol
2) Use a neti-pot regularly
3) Start washing hands at regular intervals, not just when i'm in my bathroom.

Do you guys have other tips and tricks? I'm tired of all the Tylenol Cold, Zicam, and cough drops that I've been ingesting. Thanks!
posted by unexpected to Health & Fitness (48 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Be careful with the Zicam.
posted by griphus at 2:29 PM on June 17, 2010

1. Stay away from sick people.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:32 PM on June 17, 2010

Zinc will help you get over a virus faster. I believe this is why elderflower extract works, too. I am not sure what you can do about prevention.
posted by annsunny at 2:32 PM on June 17, 2010

JUst a few quick tips:

When you can't wash your hands, use hand sanitizer! Get used to carrying it with you and keep it in your car!! The second I come out of a grocery store (or really any public place) and I've touched the carts, I use the hand sanitizer in my car.

If you have to sneeze, sneeze into your elbow, not into your hands, thereby keeping your hands cleaner and less germy.

Feel better!
posted by fresh-rn at 2:33 PM on June 17, 2010

I would stress the adequate sleep. Each person needs a different amount -- I have a coworker who has been getting 4.5 hours of sleep naturally (waking up without an alarm clock) for the last decade. I know that I need 7.5-9 hours each night to stay healthy, while I was sick as a dog when I got only 6-7 hours.
posted by Peter Petridish at 2:34 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get a new toothbrush. Clean your mouse and keyboard regularly. Go and play outside in the sun.
posted by whiskeyspider at 2:35 PM on June 17, 2010

Open your windows and doors when possible.
posted by fire&wings at 2:35 PM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: Over the last 2 years I was getting super sick a lot, like 5-7 times a year.

Getting regular vitamins helped, but the big thing for me was eating yogurt regularly to get the live cultures. I had read something about the immune system keying off of what you had in the digestive tract and I started doing yogurt several times a week.

Haven't been sick this year at all.
posted by yeloson at 2:36 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stay away from sick people or people who look like they may be sick (if abstaining from alcohol = fewer trips to the bar, this should help tremendously).

Stop/reduce touching your face (along with washing your hands All. The. Time.)
posted by ish__ at 2:37 PM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: As a nurse I've noticed that a lot of people don't wash their hands properly. You've got to work up a good lather, use friction, and wash for a good fifteen seconds if you want to really get your hands clean. Always washing your hands before you touch food is a good rule. For instance, you go to the coffeeshop, buy a muffin, pay in cash...you better wash those hands before you eat it! It's amazing how often we touch our mouths and noses without thinking about it, so try to be more aware of that, and wash, wash, wash those hands.
posted by tetralix at 2:42 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you bite your nails, chew your thumb, or have any habit that has finger-mouth contact, do whatever it takes to kick the habit.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:49 PM on June 17, 2010

I can't believe no one has said this yet and I don't know if you're a smoker, but don't smoke. The people I notice that are sick the most at work are the chain smokers. It's probably one of the worst things you can do to your body.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:49 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you been to see an ENT ?

I used to have chronic colds and sinus infections. 2-3 days a month were lost to sickness. My doctor referred me to an ENT who recommended a Full Endoscopic Sinus Surgery. I haven't been sick since. Hell, I haven't felt this good in years.

Now, I am not recommending that you need surgery. But, talking with a doctor about your (apparently) chronic sickness could yield a more effective strategy than washing your hands more.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:49 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh and also, stress is a huge factor in making people physically sick. If you feel like you have too much stress in your life, you need to start looking at methods to help alleviate that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:51 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Supplement with high doses (5000 IU) of vitamin D. CNN story and associated Pubmed link.
posted by Durin's Bane at 2:55 PM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: Ensure the air in your living space is clean. Do this by 1) changing your air filters and 2) ensuring that you don't have a mold problem.
posted by squorch at 3:07 PM on June 17, 2010

Are you sure you are catching colds? Could it be allergies instead?
posted by Jacqueline at 3:08 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Gain ten pounds. When I was too skinny, I was constantly sick. My immune system was a lot weaker.
posted by sunnichka at 3:08 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing: don't touch your face.
posted by Dimpy at 3:09 PM on June 17, 2010

yeloson has a good point - intestinal flora. You need your intestinal flora to be healthy - this will affect many aspects of your health, not just the immune system. Non-fat, without added sugar yoghurt with live cultures is good. You can also buy probiotic supplements (for example from Trader Joes) - I do this on the rare occasions when I have to take an antibiotic (like for a dental procedure), the antibiotic unbalances your intestinal flora, and the probiotic supplements re-balance it. Question: do you have GERD and do you take PPI's? Any other medication? Some medications lower your immune response. You may also have naturally low stomach acid levels, which results in frequent upper respiratory infections and colds.

Regarding diet, yes, I know you said paleo, but make sure you balance your n3-n6 ratios. Too high an n-6 can suppress the immune system:

PMID: 15820615

Unsaturated fatty acids intake and all-causes mortality: a 8.5-year follow-up of the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

"On the contrary, high LA intake (n-6 PUFA) may increase the susceptibility of LDL-C to oxidation, which makes it more atherogenic (Reaven et al., 1994), even if the association between LA and atherosclerosis is controversial (Blankenhorn et al., 1990). Furthermore, in laboratory animals, n-6 PUFA can promote chemical carcinogenesis (Reddy, 1986) and suppress the immune system (Weyman et al., 1975). As seen above limited epidemiologic data further suggest the high total PUFA consumption, including n-6 PUFA, can increase the risk for human cancer (Wolk et al., 1998), and atherosclerosis (Blankenhorn et al., 1990). Health recommendations refer to the ratio of PUFA/SFA, but the ratio n-3:n-6 could be more important (de Lorgeril et al., 1998)."[emph. mine]
posted by VikingSword at 3:11 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The very moment you realize you are coming down with something, have a cup of tea or just hot water. I don't know why, but I swear that the hydration and heat do something for the immune system, especially if it's a stuffy nose / throat kind of thing. Continue to drink hot tea / water as often as you can stand, for as long as you feel the sickness coming on. Then, make a decision not to do anything physically or emotionally taxing for the rest of the day. Avoid stress of any kind. Finally, if at all possible, take a nap. I believe sleep is the single most important thing you can do to help your immune system fight off the germs. Do NOT go to work if you feel like you're getting something. Stay home and sleep it off.

I get colds, but since I started following this 'regime', they rarely become full-blown and only last a day or two.
posted by kitcat at 3:19 PM on June 17, 2010

Also, many people in my parts swear by Cold-FX, even though it hasn't stood up to scientifically vigorous testing. I'm one of them. I don't care what the studies say or if it's a placebo; if it works, it works. Taking one a day *may* prevent you from getting sick.
posted by kitcat at 3:26 PM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: How's your dental health? Dentist every six months, just in case you develop an infection or other problem that might not be immediately obvious.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:33 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Eat alkaline producing foods.
posted by zeek321 at 3:42 PM on June 17, 2010

Response by poster: I like these! keep them coming!

I've only started getting sick a lot this year, so i don't think it's chronic. My notable changes for this year are an increase in training volume and in an effort to find myself a wife, an attempt to be social (thus increasing my contact with other human beings).

I also haven't been to the dentist in 3 years...ugh. Really? I HATE the dentist....
posted by unexpected at 4:10 PM on June 17, 2010

I went from getting sick every two months to twice a year (if that), by doing these three things:

1. Wash my hands.
2. Have a hand sanitizer pump in the car and using it after being in public spaces.
3. Stopped touching my face.

I could not believe it was so simple. But it was.
posted by Vaike at 4:19 PM on June 17, 2010

If you are doing strict paleo and want to avoid dairy-based yogurt or soy yogurt, there's now a coconut milk based one. It's more expensive, of course, but would help you stay on strict paleo. Also coconut milk kefir. I can get both at my local health food store in a decidedly non health food-centric location, so hopefully you can source it locally.

Also, if it's the overtraining affecting you, consider looking at Crossfit Endurance. A woman at my gym recently completed her first ironman by using crossfit endurance + regular crossfit and trained in about 1/3 the time as a more traditional tri-training program. She didn't set any records but made a very respectable showing for her age group on a difficult, hilly course.
posted by BlooPen at 4:24 PM on June 17, 2010

Oh my god the dentist, yes. Did you know that periodontal disease can more than double your risk for heart attack or stroke? Or that bad gums cause more premature births every year than smoking and alcohol use combined?

Your teeth and gums are a part of your body, and it is vital to ensure good dental health. If you're having upper respiratory problems while ignoring the health of half your upper respiratory system, that's probably the best place to start.
posted by KathrynT at 4:33 PM on June 17, 2010

Also on the dental health theme, soak your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide at least once a week, especially if you use those electric toothbrush heads with all the little nooks and crannies. If you're like me, you'll be simultaneously amazed and disgusted by the results the first time you do this!
posted by platinum at 4:37 PM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: Is your training in the gym? Those places are germ factories, because everyone's touching the same handrails on the treadmills or the same plates for the weight machines. It's like bathroom doors or Metro handrails, so many people touching the same place, but people don't tend to think about gyms in the same way.

Being very, very conscious about not touching your face--and not doing anything like setting your towel down on the bench while you do presses, then using that same towel to wipe your face later--will help cut down on a prime way that you could be picking up bugs. Make sure you wash your hands really well before you drive home, and wash your towel after every session.
posted by iminurmefi at 4:40 PM on June 17, 2010

Here is a link to oral health and heart health.
I agree with the above, including washing your hands prior to touching your food or face/mouth. Hand hygiene should be with plenty of friction and at least 20 seconds. Here is a link from Minnesota Dept of Health, a pdf, on how to properly wash your hands, in case you need it.

I would start "knuckle bumping" instead of hand shaking. I agree with allergies vs. illness. It could be your sinuses reacting to allergens.

I started eating more yogurt and "live active cultures" and it seems to be doing some good. Where I live I can also get Raw Milk, which seems to help me.

You may want to see your physician if this continues to rule out things that can weaken your immune system.

IANAD, IAARN (I am a Registered Nurse), but NOT your nurse. Best of luck to you!
posted by 6:1 at 4:48 PM on June 17, 2010

One more thing, I don't use a Netipot, I use the squeeze bottle. It's easier for me, and it's what my ENT recommended. Also, if you use this brand, sign up for the news letter--they frequently have rebates and coupons.
posted by 6:1 at 4:50 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Or allergies that turn into colds? I've often had allergic reactions that turn into colds/sinus infections due to the mucus back up. As soon as I feel any kind of congestion I'm hitting the Claratin-D, guaifenesin (plus mucho water), spicy foods and hot teas. It's helped me.

But then, I'm also of the school of thought that thinks anti-bacterials, excessive hand washing and germ avoidance lead to a suppressed immune system.
posted by Carbolic at 4:53 PM on June 17, 2010

Vitamin D, and definitely the squeeze bottle nasal rinse 6:1 mentions. Cold-eeze lozenges when you first feel symptoms (these actually work, they taste gross, but at least you won't risk losing your sense of smell).
I work out hard, although not for nearly the duration you do. Sleep definitely helps (you may need more than 8 hours a night, I know I do). I have always eaten plenty of yogurt and I became a much better hand washer after moving to NYC and getting sick a ton from the public transport germs, but I really feel like vitamin D supplements were the turning point from "sick every couple months" to "rarely sick at all". I take 5000 IU in the winter and somewhat less in the summer depending on how much I am outside any given day.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:10 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might want to do a big spring cleaning of your home - vacuum, wash linens in hot water, vacuum the bed, wash all surfaces with a disinfectant (refrgerator/oven doors, doorknobs, stair railings, etc). Same at your office - keyboard, phone, chair arms, desk surface. Not sure what you can do about the gym - carry a box of disinfectant wipes and wipe down the equipment before you use it?
posted by CathyG at 5:22 PM on June 17, 2010

2 Recommendations. First, strike the Never part. Some occasional illness symptoms come from your body's functional reaction to infection. It's not realistic to pursue never getting sick again.

Second... my wife and I have been ill much less frequently in the past 3 years since we cut out processed food. Our 9 month old kid has yet to get sick. To the greatest extent possible, we eat fresh, home grown or locally produced food. I don't begin to have the credentials to analyze this in technical biological detail, and we're not statistically significant. YMMV.
posted by maniabug at 5:44 PM on June 17, 2010

The things that seemed to lower my cold issues were:-
  • Multivitamins, which you're already doing
  • Fish Oil, which is early 2000's miracle drug du jour but seems to have some solid research indicating a large range of prophylactic health benefits
I would not be surprised if your extensive exercise is supressing your immune system. Why, exactly do you do 2-3 hours a day? I've seen a lot of advice that any more then 1 hour for regular people can lead to over-training and exhaustion.

Also, try tea. It probably does nothing, but it's delicious!
posted by Quadlex at 6:02 PM on June 17, 2010

If you feel like you're getting a sore throat, have a tablespoonful of honey. It soothes your throat and has antibiotic properties too.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:20 PM on June 17, 2010

Get a flu shot every year.
posted by Ouisch at 6:56 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I got MRSA infections every year for 5 years and frequent bronchitis/upper respiratory infections until I gave up my gym membership and bought home equipment. I also have seen an abatement in my IBS symptoms since then... icky to think touching all that equipment might've done that to me.

Now I get sick once or twice a year and I work out 5-6 days a week for 1.5-2 hours per day. I also floss EVERY DAY. I also wash my hands before and after exercise and bathe within 30 minutes to an hour after workouts.

Even when coworkers and my SO get sick, I typically don't get infected. So far, I've survived being coughed on by a breastfeeding mom with H1N1 and three months of nonstop exposure to mono with no reaction whatsoever.

I avoid flu shots, so that's not an issue. Thanks for asking this, I'm SO going to try the hydrogen peroxide thing! I replace my brush every 3-4 months.

One last thought; does your chest burn when you exercise? Not like stitches, more like, a mini-furnace just above your solar plexus? If so, it could be exercise-induced asthma; when I feel it coming on, I stop any cardio IMMEDIATELY. If I don't, THAT is when I get sick. YMMV.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:35 PM on June 17, 2010

Go to an allergist, rule out allergies. If you have insurance, you have nothing to lose. I bet a dollar to a doughnut you are going to be surprised by what they tell you. I started the shots about one year ago and went from being sick four times year to not sick at all.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:21 PM on June 17, 2010

I would recommend against using a Neti pot regularly. While sinus irrigation does alleviate the symptoms of sinusitis and congestion, it can actually cause you to get sinusitis more frequently if you use it regularly. I recently read a study showing that people who use a Neti pot daily get more sinus infections than those who don't (I can try to find that study again for you if you want). This is probably due to the fact that the mucous creates a protective barrier, and when you use a Neti pot too frequently, your mucous is not as good at protecting you from bacteria and viruses. You should really only use it when you are actually sick.

Also, have you seen an ENT? Are you getting sinusitis frequently? I suffered from frequent (and sometimes really agonizing) sinusitis when I was younger, and my ENT diagnosed me with a deviated septum. I had surgery to correct it, and I've been pretty healthy ever since. This was after a specialist ruled out allergies, so perhaps see an allergist first. Talk to your doctor about it.

The other thing I wonder is what your work environment is like. I used to work in a lab where we all had a cubicle in an office area, but had to share computers. I found the best way to avoid getting sick was to always use hand gel (the lab provided this for us) when I left the office area, and to get some Clorox wipes to wipe down keyboards and other shared work spaces. It might make you look like kind of a germophobe, but it helps.
posted by lexicakes at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2010

And here's an article about the Neti pot thing.
posted by lexicakes at 9:12 PM on June 17, 2010

Do you work with children? When I used to work with children I would get sick all the time, cos one of them was invariably sick...
posted by saturn~jupiter at 2:56 AM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, I never ever really thought about the gym. That's totally right of course. And believe it or not, I've been using the same towel for the past 6 months - without washing (*groan*). I need to fix that ASAP.

I'd love to get home gym equipment but my place is too small for that right now. Maybe when I buy my own place.Now i'm wondering if it's even worth carrying a towel to the gym...
posted by unexpected at 8:25 AM on June 18, 2010

Does your diet include meat? I get sick when I dont eat enough meat, especially so if i am in a particularly active period as you seem to be. If i was excercising 2-3 hours a day and not eating meat, i would have severe diziness adn proably faint a few times a week. This is regardless of how much of other things i eat and supplementing with other types of proteins, even if they are stuff that comes from the earth. Nothing keeps my immune system going like meat. I have no idea why, but i suspect creatin may have something to do with it.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:44 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eat a variety of foods. With such a broad mix you're bound to get something nutrient-wise that'll help, beyond if you just eat Hot Pockets day in and day out. Yes, be good about cleanliness--wash your hands effectively and routinely, make it something you don't even have to think twice about doing in the right situations, and make sure your place is properly ventilated and gets some sun (does your apartment seem dank and dark like a cave?). Yes, if you are on the thin side consider gaining some weight, and if you smoke, well, don't. Also among my friends I've noticed if you overdo it with the drinking you'll get sick WAY more often. It seems to make a huge difference, maybe because when you drink heavily you're likely not getting the nutrients you need from foods you're forgoing and inefficient absorption of the foods you are still eating. I feel like everyone on my FB feed who complains about constantly being sick also mentions regularly they drink too much.

And yeah, as soon as your tell sign shows up--for me it's a specific itch in the throat--boost your diet (oranges, tea, whatever) and do everything you can to empty out the mucus--via steam from hot tea and soups as well as blowing your nose often to drain stuff. I find it helps a lot.
posted by ifjuly at 10:18 AM on June 18, 2010

Response by poster: WeekendJen, I love meat. Must have meat. LOVE MEAT.

ifjuly, this could also be something, and i'm sterilizing the apt this weekend. You could be right about the drinking - I definitely go out and have fun, but I think I drink a lot less than my peer group. I do think that drinking leads to inadequate sleep the next day though.
posted by unexpected at 3:41 PM on June 18, 2010

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