Sick of getting sick!
September 29, 2012 12:38 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop getting sick? I teach High School and am constantly run down. I eat healthy, go to bed ridiculously early to get up early, exercise, and wash hands as often as possible (and have wipes in classroom) but it is pretty much impossible to stay healthy in a non-healthy atmosphere.

Now I go to accupuncture, recently took antibiotics for a chest infection (contracted first week of school) and feel like I am getting sick again (third week of school). I am in contact with 120 teenagers a day, custodians clean only the floor by sweeping (no other surfaces) and I try to stay as clean as possible but since I am trapped in a room (ie touch any school doors after washing hands- hands dirty again, despite now trying to clean immediate surfaces in morning with wipes, or need to take assignments etc from students and so on, there is simply no easy way to get around a great deal of communal touching, nor am I in control of the air temperature and carry many layers with me.). Note: I am not paranoid about my health, I have just worked in schools for 10 years and get sick wayy too often between Sept and June. I have to go to bed insanely early to get enough sleep to wake up at 5:30 am and have to use weekends as "downtime" to recover, therefore my own social life suffers. However if I 'push it' by exercising more or going out more- BAM, sick again. Is there anything I am overlooking besides the usual don't touch your face, take vitamin C etc?

I guess it's a two part question. How can I stop getting sick so much, and how can I fit in my own interests and needs better without getting excessively run down?

Additional notes:I am aware of previous questions and even reference myself here. This has happened to me in different buildings in different countries so it is not just my particular present place of work.
posted by bquarters to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Bring hand sanitizer with you to school, use regularly.

I'm not sure about your class setup, but allowing your students to use it can help as well, you're probably not the only one fed up with how dirty a poorly cleaned school can get.
posted by Ndwright at 12:47 PM on September 29, 2012

Can't speak from personal experience, but some people claim the Neti pot or saline sprays help with this.
posted by bunderful at 12:50 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would the school allow you to use a HEPA filter in your classroom? Get one of the models with UV-C, and it will at least keep the air around you free of potential pathogens (including fungal spores, which won't make most people sick but can tax your immune system over time).

Also - Let your environment do some of the work for you - Brass and stainless steel both self-sterilize; wood and plastic, by contrast, make perfect little breeding grounds for all sorts of nasties.
posted by pla at 12:54 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whoops, I almost forgot this. I once had a phase in which I got sick about once a month. I saw an allergist who tested me and found no significant allergies, but he put me on a mild dose of Allegra, and I stopped getting sick so often.
posted by bunderful at 12:56 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're not going to have much luck disinfecting your classroom so you never touch germs--after all, short of a full wipe-down of all surfaces after every class, you're just going to have a new set of kids troop in and share their germs. I honestly wouldn't even bother putting more effort into that since it seems like you'll never win the battle.

Instead, you should accept that you're going to get germs on your hands pretty much throughout the day, and work on interrupting the transmission from your hands to your eyes/mouth/nose. If you can short-circuit that piece of the infection process then it won't matter how many germy, bacteria-filled pencils / papers / doorknobs you touch, because you won't be infecting yourself and thus they'll just get washed down the drain when you wash your hands at the end of the day.

Most of us touch our face all day long without even realizing it, so I'm not sure of the best way to break that habit, but I think it's your only shot.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I work in a hospital and I really have had a lot of success with Neti pots and Airborne supplements, as well as a daily over-the-counter antihistamine (I like Zyrtec). I have a chronic cough and terrible, terrible allergies, and I find that if I can sustain Neti pot use a few times a week when I'm not feeling ill, and several times a day when I am sick shortens the duration of my allergy attacks. It takes a little practice and a quiet place where you can Neti without interruption or at least judgement.
posted by honeybee413 at 1:04 PM on September 29, 2012

Make sure that you are eating enough. When I was operating on a serious calorie deficit I got sick constantly. If you possibly can, check in with a registered dietician to make sure you are getting what you need in a form that you will actually eat.

When you're on a busy schedule all day, it can be really hard to take time to eat and harder still to pull together an adequate dinner at the end of the day. Maybe see if it helps to make food really easy and enjoyable for a month?
posted by corey flood at 1:06 PM on September 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have vats of pump hand sanitizer around my classroom. This helps for those instances where my personal repeating meantra of "don'ttoychyourfacedonttouchyourface" might fail.

I feel way better when I eat a decent breakfast (even if it's peanut butter toast plus an apple consumed in the car) and lunch (I make something the night before or it won't happen). How are you with this?

A random note that if you haven't been in for a physical and had some basic bloodwork done in a long time, and you're feeling unusually run down and terrible despite getting what should be enough sleep maybe give that a shot. I spent like two years feeling low-grade crappy/exhausted thinking it was stress and overwork, and a huge contributing factor turned out to be a shitty thyroid. I wish I could have those two years of weekends spent zonked on the couch back.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

The only thing that works for me is supplementing with Vitamin D and neti pot.
posted by fshgrl at 1:16 PM on September 29, 2012

I suggest talking to your acupuncturist about the fact that you need so much sleep, and look into ways to boost your immune system. Talk to some folks at the supplement department at a good health food store. And are you taking a multivitamin?
posted by Specklet at 1:20 PM on September 29, 2012

Oh! And what charmedimsure said!
posted by Specklet at 1:22 PM on September 29, 2012

My daughter's first grade teacher had all the kids wipe their hands with a baby wipe whenever they came in to the classroom; first thing in the morning, after recess, after lunch (Costco unscented baby wipes, torn in half). Coincidentally (or not?) he received a perfect attendance award for several years running. I noticed that my daughter seemed to get fewer colds last year as well. Maybe you could get a parent to buy a case of wipes for the kids to use?
posted by mogget at 1:46 PM on September 29, 2012

I used to work in a hospital and during times with lots of community illnesses (usually flu season), at each entrance to the hospital they placed hand sanitizer dispensers and tissues in order to cut down on germs being brought in by visitors. Maybe encouraging your students to sanitize their hands as they entered the classroom and being sure there were plenty of tissues for the coughing, sneezing and snotty would help.

At the very least, I would get into a routine of sanitizing your hands after any interaction with students. Take up papers, sanitize. Walk around and help students at their desks, sanitize. Between classes, sanitize or even better, wash with soap and water if you have time. I say this as someone who never really thought sanitizers could do much, but then they put them at the door of each patient's room and hospital infection rates went down significantly.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 1:51 PM on September 29, 2012

If you do look into a neti pot, be aware of this infection risk (use only filtered or distilled water).

How long have you been teaching in this school? I caught everything my first year teaching, and to a lesser extent my second year. By the third year, it was a lot better. I don't know if I had already been exposed to a lot of the germs, or if my immune system stepped up, but I noticed a real improvement.
posted by pompelmo at 1:53 PM on September 29, 2012

Can you have a student whose job it is to wipe down all the desks and stuff with a Clorox wipe? That's been helpful for me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:58 PM on September 29, 2012

Though I realize you said you have worked in several different places and experienced the same levels of "sick-too-much-ness", I wonder if it could be the air filtration on the heating/cooling system in your room.

I worked in a school where everyone who was in a certain bungalow was sick 80% more often than anyone else in the school. Turns out, the filter on the AC/heating unit wasn't a filter anymore so much as a solid sheet of black, fuzzy mold. So, maybe you could at least check it to rule it out?
posted by Temeraria at 2:00 PM on September 29, 2012

Do you enjoy what you're doing? Is everything outside work okay? Happiness has a lot to do with my health.
posted by scruss at 2:06 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is all. Works great for me!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:15 PM on September 29, 2012

When I was teaching junior high, I always made each of my students use hand sanitizer upon entering the room, before sitting down in their desks. I also had several dispensers around the room, and used it often myself. Seemed to help me stay healthier (along with drinking lots of water, eating well) than in previous years. I always seemed to be sick with something when I was teaching!
posted by Happydaz at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2012

If you are interested in what the latest and best scientific evidence has to say, I would check out the Cochrane reports on the various interventions you are considering.

From memory (I'm on my phone so can't check), there's a growing consensus that vitamin C has no effect. I remember reading some limited evidence for zinc, though. Acupuncture does nothing for colds and has risks of its own (infections, contact with others with infectious disease) -- steer clear.
posted by peter1982peter at 3:38 PM on September 29, 2012

Supplement with probiotics? I can't find a good cite for you, but its supposed to benefit the body's natural gastric intrinsic factor, magically enveloping you in immunity! Anecdatally, when I have failed to keep up with my probiotic supplementation, I've been more susceptible to whatever bugs are going around.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 4:10 PM on September 29, 2012

Washing hands is useless unless it's being done properly. Airborne works if you are susceptible to the placebo effect, but don't take it if you are already taking a vitamin A supplement because you may be at risk of A overdosing. Hand sanitizers remove helpful and harmful bacteria by stripping your skin of oil, but so far there isn't much data on whether sanitizers do anything to viruses.

tl;dr: Wash your hands properly on a regular basis, stop touching your face. (I found that using eyedrops and keeping my face moisturized helped keep my hands away from my face; ymmv.) Don't waste money on supplements, which have limited evidence of efficacy. Send visibly sick students to the nurse.
posted by xyzzy at 4:39 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been teaching for a long time. I've come to realize that to some degree, getting sick from the kids is unavoidable. I've gotten into the routine of cleaning all tools and materials that the kids come into contact with almost daily. This has helped. Also remember to think about other contact areas - doorknob, telephone, etc. My classroom located adjacent to the assembly hall, so my phone gets a ton of use - cleaning it often has helped considerably.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:36 PM on September 29, 2012

My from-kids colds went way down went I started keeping hand sanitizer in the car. I think the germs were getting from my hands to my face not at school, when I'm generally too busy to sit and chew my nails or touch my face, but on the ride home once I start relaxing. Now, once I get in the car, the very first thing I do is sanitize my hands, so I'm starting my evening with a clean slate. Extreme hot and cold temps don't seem to effect the texture of the sanitizer much, and I also keep a bottle of lotion in there for cold days.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:13 PM on September 29, 2012

Make sure you get your flu shot (if possible) and that the rest of your vaccinations are current. And wash your hands, a LOT. Like after every period if possible.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:25 PM on September 29, 2012

Read up on vitamin D and maybe get your levels tested. When they are low, not much else helps defenses, and you'll always feel tired.

At first sign of a cold, take a very hot bath, perhaps with some ginger in it to heat the skin. Then go to bed. I headed off a bad cold the other week with this.
posted by Riverine at 6:26 PM on September 29, 2012

I find that the times I am assigned to hospitals that the cardinal rule is to absolutely never touch your face.

Most (not all) viruses are transferred a lot more effectively by mucosal transfer than aerosol.

Unless you have some other health condition, possibly a chronic sinus infection exacerbated by allergies, if you train yourself to just never touch your face you should have a lot less problems.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 8:07 PM on September 29, 2012

Dan Pink has an interesting idea putting neosporin in your nose check his video out, I haven't tried this myself but it might be worth a shot

Dan Pink Travel Tip #12
posted by tke248 at 8:33 PM on September 29, 2012

Wanted to echo the advice to not touch your face. My mom's been teaching primary school for almost 40 years and, since little kids are very generous in sharing their germs, is always having to fight off illness. The best thing you can do is never ever ever touch your face, particularly your mucous membranes (nose/mouth/eyes). That's where viruses are uploaded into your body, so to speak.
posted by orrnyereg at 11:40 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you so much for your thoughtful answers. I am going to try my HARDEST not to touch my face for the next week- I must be doing it unconsciously so it will be tricky! Anyway, I really appreciate it, I was feeling very down and you guys really made me feel better and I am going to try to put as much of this advice as possible (sanitzer!!) into practice. Thank you again!
posted by bquarters at 8:42 AM on September 30, 2012

« Older Wildcard e-mail forwarding service?   |   How can I step up my kissing game? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.