Why have I been getting sick so easily since moving to San Francisco?
February 22, 2014 8:33 PM   Subscribe

I moved to San Francisco 7-8 months ago. Ever since then I have found myself getting sick unusually easily. The illnesses I get tend to have the same set of symptoms: heightened temperature/fever, lack of energy, sniffles, sneezing and this kind of warm sick feeling in my body. They tend to be made worse by stress and are often triggered by working hard on things. (Which is really unfortunate because I want to be working a lot harder on my projects than I am right now!) If you've got any wild guess as to what might be going on, please share it!

One hypothesis that occurred to me is that I was deficient in Vitamin D--SF is a foggy city, I was living in a dark room for a while, and I don't do that many outdoor activities aside from riding my kick scooter some on my way to and from work. Supplementing Vitamin D seemed to help to some degree; I've heard that sunlight has other beneficial effects aside from promoting Vitamin D synthesis so I've been trying to sunbathe more.

I also wonder if there is something about the home I live in or the office I work in that is resulting in me getting sick unusually easily. I work in an open-plan office and it seems like sickness spreads through the office fairly easily. The house I live in was built a while ago but it's not super old.

I've been mildly depressed and sleep-deprived, but there were periods of my life in the past where I was much more depressed and much more sleep-deprived and I didn't get as sick then as I've been getting now.
posted by astrofinch to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It could be that you have an allergy making you more susceptible to illness. Maybe get allergy tests done? Maybe try antihistamines in the meantime? Sadly SF's warn, dry winter means more dust and pollen all year long. It's also just the every beginning of pollen season as the first trees are starting to flower.
posted by GuyZero at 8:35 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's been a bad winter for air pollution in the Bay Area.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 8:42 PM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe it's just moving to a new city? I moved to New York almost two years ago and I swear the first winter I had at least 5 colds (I usually get one per winter). I have never been sick so often in my life, and I have moved around lots. This year, I somehow haven't been sick at all yet which is unusual. Maybe it's just new pathogens that you're adjusting to? Whatever it is, based on my experience it won't necessarily last.
posted by queens86 at 8:43 PM on February 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

You just moved to a new place where you don't have immunity to the common strains of viruses. The same thing happens to people that move to NYC. With time, it will pass.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:51 PM on February 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

check for mold. basement, bathroom, behind cabinets, wall behind sofa.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:54 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a pretty common experience for many North Americans moving to the UK to get really bad colds/allergies in the first couple of years. Among my expat posse we called it the second year cough because it seemed to kick in during your second winter. You experience different micro creature populations and the change in humidity means a change in the amount of mold inside and out. SF might be the same kind of change.

It is pretty unlikely you have a D deficiency. That takes pretty hard work to achieve.
posted by srboisvert at 9:03 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the ideas, folks! I was living elsewhere in the Bay Area previously (Santa Clara; I've actually been in this area my entire life), so I don't know how much credence to lend to the "new set of pathogens" hypothesis. This has been going on pretty much since the June that I moved here (7-ish months ago), so I don't know about seasonal effects. I actually think supplementing Vitamin D did a lot to help with the problem but it doesn't seem to be totally gone.
posted by astrofinch at 9:04 PM on February 22, 2014

I was going to say allergy in the new city, something in the air.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:07 PM on February 22, 2014

I guess my diet has also changed since I'm eating lunch & dinner at work and buying a different set of groceries?
posted by astrofinch at 9:08 PM on February 22, 2014

My money's on your open-plan office. Is your work stressful, do you have little separation between you and your desk buddy, and do people come to work sick? That, plus all of the new germs, are probably combining to wreak havoc on your immune system.

I was sick all the time when I worked in an open office in the Bay Area, and so were my coworkers. Beyond working to reduce your own stress and popping Claritin on high-pollen weeks, I honestly don't know what to recommend besides stocking up on Dayquil or negotiating a different workspace.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 9:15 PM on February 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

This exact thing happened to me when I moved to Arizona seven years ago. I started getting immunology shots this year and the difference in how I feel is night and day. I was literally balled up in the fetal position the entire winter beginning in 2006. This year, I can breathe! Go to an allergist and let them check you out.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 9:16 PM on February 22, 2014

Are you living on a high traffic street, compared to where you were previously? We lived on a major thoroughfare in SF and got upper respiratory infections all the time, possibly due to air pollution; you could see a layer of fine black dust around the (drafty, old) windows.
posted by Wavelet at 9:58 PM on February 22, 2014

You might try regularly wiping down your keyboard/phone/other relevant surfaces with rubbing alcohol on a paper towel and see if that helps.

That said

What meds are you taking? Some cause vitamin deficiencies. You might try supplementing with a multi vitamin along with the Vit D?

Do consider mold, tho.

Isn't Santa Clara below SF and super sunny, if I remember?

When I moved to Wellington, NZ, I lived on the sunny side of the city. I was constantly told stories of moldy horrors by folks living opposite. The climates are similar, so you might want to consider this possibility.

In the main, do stop eating processeds foods if you do now.

The causes are too broad at this point to pinpoint in an AskMe, but I hope this helps you narrow things down.
posted by jbenben at 10:06 PM on February 22, 2014

Do your co-workers have young kids? The year the majority of our (open office) managers all had kids from infant to early elementary school age, we all got sick constantly.
posted by jaguar at 10:17 PM on February 22, 2014

I work in an open-plan office and it seems like sickness spreads through the office fairly easily.

I live in SF and work in Menlo Park, and although my office is not open-plan, it seems like this has been a particularly bad few months for people being sick. I'm sure the craptacular air quality (so many spare-the-air days in December and January especially!) isn't helping.

Don't discount how debilitating a low-grade viral infection + insufficient sleep + low [vitamin] level can be; it wouldn't hurt to get your thyroid levels checked, and officially your vitamin D levels, too.
posted by rtha at 10:37 PM on February 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do go to a doctor though and get things checked out (vitamin D, thyroid, anemia, etc...)

I lived in SF - city of microclimates. I mean, there are noticeably different microclimates just within the City of SF itself; SF to Berkeley/Oakland is completely different (no fog!); and SF to Santa Clara is just... no comparison. A good way to see this illustrated is to go to a gardening resource and look up what planting zone your area of SF is, and compare it with the rest of the Bay Area, and Santa Clara. Here's one from the USDA and here's one from Sunset.

I grew up in the central valley, and my grandparents lived 46 miles away at about 3500 feet in the Sierras - I always had awful allergies up there in the spring due to the Cedar pollen. Not an issue at home. I will nth allergy testing, and checking for mold - moving out of my dark moldy place (as you will see from previous questions I've asked) made an incredible difference - much larger than I would have expected. Do you live or live/work in the Western side - Sunset districts or Richmond? They get a lot more fog than the East side of SF.

I also work in an open plan office, where lots of people have school-age children. I've never had as many crummy colds as I have since I started working here... 2 years ago. Sigh...

I didn't get as sick then as I've been getting now.
You also weren't as old then as you are now. This is a huge lament of my 30's... I didn't used to have back problems/get sick so often/need to diet/have white hairs etc. etc. etc. The difference between 28 and 32 is shocking.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:01 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you spoken to a doctor about this? I've worked in a couple open offices, one of them in a very packed office open floor where I could reach out and touch the person across from me and the two next to me, and it didn't cause any problem for me.

I would try to ensure you are getting 8 hours of sleep every night, even if it means seeing a doctor for some sleep aid. And I'd also ask a doctor about this to rule out anything your doctor may want to test for. At a minimum, the doctor will probably order some blood work that will test for vitamin D, your blood count, thyroid, etc. to be sure something isn't fundamentally wrong. People on the internet can't really say for sure.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:02 PM on February 22, 2014

Do you take public transportation? Do your best to avoid touching anything within the system with your hands: poles, escalator rails, etc. (Don't lean on poles, though -- that's rude and people do need to use them.) When you get to the office wash your hands immediately.

(Also, this year has been particularly nasty for bugs going around.)
posted by trip and a half at 11:31 PM on February 22, 2014

Thirding rtha and trip and a half. This has just been a shitty year for colds in the bay area, with at least three long-term upper respiratory infections sweeping through.

I wouldn't look much farther than that.
posted by benzenedream at 12:20 AM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

"It is pretty unlikely you have a D deficiency."

That's not really true. Vitamin D deficiency has been recognized as a growing worldwide problem in the last decade or so.
posted by The Blue Olly at 5:52 AM on February 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

You could try buying an air filter device (Home Depot or similar store will have them) and running it in your bedroom; it will probably make your bedroom delightful, and there's always a chance it will help you feel better.
posted by amtho at 5:54 AM on February 23, 2014

If people at your workplace are getting most of the same illnesses, then that's it. All you need is a couple of people who have kids (who spread these things among each other more easily than adults), and who then come to work with bad habits that tend to spread germs (open sneezes and coughs, not enough handwashing, etc.), and presto — everybody gets sick.

Still, you can avoid picking up their germs and viruses through good habits of your own. Wash your hands a lot, avoid the sickies, etc. If other people use your keyboard, mouse, phone, pens, etc., sanitize before you do. Above all avoid touching your mouth, nose, eyes. Here's how doctors do it.
posted by beagle at 5:55 AM on February 23, 2014

Is there a higher mold concentration as a result of SF dampness, and it is straining your system? I recently moved to a basement apartment and I have been sick more often in the last 3 months than I have been in the last 10 years combined. Dampness is the only factor I can pin down in my own case.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 8:16 AM on February 23, 2014

Stress weakens your immune system. Could it be that you've been more stressed compared to before you moved?
posted by gumtree at 8:21 AM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could be Lyme - it's in the SF area. Not everyone develops the bullseye around a tick bite. There's a blood test, and some treatment available. Don't get sucked in to the alt health scare mongering about Lyme disease, though. If the test comes back negative, it's not Lyme!
posted by stoneweaver at 12:36 PM on February 23, 2014

When my vitamin d was low, it took Rx-level doses to restore it and only then did a daily OTC dose help. Might have you level checked by doctor.
posted by michellenoel at 2:04 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you lost weight? I get sick more often when my BMI goes below around 22.
posted by xo at 6:20 PM on February 23, 2014

Vitamin D deficiency has been recognized as a growing worldwide problem in the last decade or so.

Seconding this! Both my husband and I are in D vites per results of blood testing--and we're outside every day.

Never underestimate stress. Simply moving is stressful, and the effects take a minimum of six months to pass off.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:07 PM on February 23, 2014

Thanks for the answers everyone! Yeah, I'm sure stress plays a big role, but I want to be able to stress myself out, and I'm only 22 so I feel like I should be allowed to do that without getting sick :P

I looked in my house for mold but wasn't able to find any. I know we've had mold on the ceiling of the shower before but I don't think it was anything really significant.

I'll start watching what I touch on public transportation and supplement Vitamin D in higher levels, and probably go to the doctor and look in to some of your other suggestions if this continues.
posted by astrofinch at 11:12 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, this exact thing just happened to me moving to SF from NYC. I've seriously had five colds since September (and maybe now one stomach bug... ergh). Just wanted to let you know you're not alone in this.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:28 PM on March 11, 2014

(Like you, I am also not nearly as stressed out as I have been at other periods in my life but have an open-plan office in which many people are new-ish parents. I do seem to be catching all of the circulating colds where others are only getting one or two, which is annoying.)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:31 PM on March 11, 2014

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