I’m feeling a bit under the weather today. It will pass, as feeling unwell or being sick always does. But it sucks in the meantime. And since I often take the role of the mom friend, I’ve spent a lot of time taking care of friends who are sick. As emerging adults, this is — for better or worse — something we have to master doing for ourselves.
So below are some of my favorite tips for helping make being sick slightly less miserable. Some of them are common sense or exactly what your mom told you, but they work for a reason. Of course, take them or leave them at will, but hopefully you find something that comes in handy.
Also, if you’re just a little under the weather or you know you’re not contagious, go about your normal business with extra hand washing. But if you are actually sick or in any way contagious, STAY HOME. Actual jobs let you take actual sick days, and you’ll get better faster if you do.
For a cold:
- Sleep. Your body is really good at making itself better, even if it’s more slowly than you would like. But being awake makes it way harder. Give it a chance to catch up by catching some z’s.
- Liquids, liquids, liquids. Preferably clear, not sugary ones. This means water, tea, hot water with lemon, broth, etc. Juice is cool, but it shouldn’t be your primary intake.
- I like natural remedies. You’ll see them interspersed in here. But cold medicine is perfectly safe when used as intended. NyQuil (if you want to sleep) and DayQuil (if you don’t) can help kick a cold way faster, Sudafed unclogs sinuses quite well, and Alka-Seltzer cold is a great addition.
- If your colds are real sinus-y, get a Neti Pot. They suck. But they cut my colds in half. It’s basically just a small plastic teapot that your put a warm saline (salt) solution into, and you pour it in one nostril and out the other like a kid who didn’t believe they were really connected. Weird, but natural, inexpensive, and effective.
- Up your vitamin C intake, but don’t go nuts. Eat some strawberries (higher in vitamin C than oranges!) or take Emergen-C, but keep your doses at a normal level. Your body will automatically flush out excess, so all you have to do is make sure it gets a normal amount.
- Blow your nose! I’m sorry if that’s gross, but sniffling with a cold is counterproductive. My mom is so happy I finally understand that. But yeah, head for the tissues.
- Add a little bit of honey or (if you’re old enough) 1 tbsp. of a brown liquor like whiskey or rum to help soothe a sore throat. Cough drops with menthol are also very effective, and onion is a good thing to eat to stop coughs.
- Spring for a humidifier and/or take a steamy shower. Having extra (clean) moisture in your home or loosening up the gunk in your system with a hot shower are both easy ways to help with a simple cold.
- Go for essential oils. Having some helpful essential oils floating around (especially eucalyptus, frankincense, lemon, tea tree, and lavender) can gently ease that cold. (NOTE: Be careful with essential oils that you’re buying safe brands, using them in small doses to avoid bad reactions, and mindful of possible allergies. Both my college roommate and myself have had bad reactions to certain oils and it’s not fun.)
For the flu or an otherwise upset stomach:
- Sleep. See above.
- Lay down. You don’t have to sleep, but just paying back and being horizontal helps.
- Eat simple foods. Soup, broth, crackers, toast, tea, water. Nibble and sip on things your stomach can handle.
- Don’t pressure yourself to eat if you can’t keep anything down. The body can go for a pretty long time without food. But simple, starchy foods are a good start.
- Electrolytes. Gatorade, Smartwater, Vitaminwater, even putting extra salt on your food. Get some electrolytes in your body so you can stay hydrated better and start getting back to normal.
- Cinnamon can help with an upset stomach, as can ginger. Try ginger ale, or cinnamon toast.
- Peppermint, cinnamon, and lemon essential oils can also be good. Again, use as directed and be careful of potential allergies.
- Put a cold compress (cool, damp washcloth) on your forehead, and put a little water on the back of your neck, and your wrists and ankles. They’re important spots in your body and can be really soothing.
For something else:
- For allergies, try eating local honey. I think it’s about a spoonful a day, and your symptoms should lessen.
- If you’re having a bit of trouble sleeping, try taking melatonin or magnesium. Both are natural sleep aids and super safe in small doses. If it’s a bigger or more persistent issue like insomnia, talk to your doctor.
- Get vaccinated. If you want to skip your yearly flu shot, I don’t care. But risking more serious illnesses is not worth it. If you’re feeling unsure about a vaccine, ask your doctor about any side effects or risks, as well as how long the vaccine has been used (usually the longer, the more tested and safer it is).
- Track your symptoms. If anything seems odd for what you think you have or unlike how you normally get sick, call your doctor.
- If any medical issue persists, GO TO THE DOCTOR. Get a friend to take you or take yourself or call your mom. Don’t care. Medical professionals are there for a reason.
- Almost all health insurance providers offer a free, 24/7 hotline to call a registered nurse or other medical professional for health advice. If you don’t have insurance, lots of hospitals and local agencies offer similar free programs. Google what’s in your area if you need simple advice, but if it’s an emergency or immediate health risk please call 911.
I hope that was helpful, and I also hope that if you’re not feeling well you get better soon. Being sick makes adulting more difficult than it already is, but taking care of one’s health is a too-often ignored responsibility.
(Photo is a free stock photo because my work tea mug does not look this cool.)