Well, it’s happening. After slogging through a cold, you can finally breathe again…right as you start to hear sneezes, sniffles, and throat clearing from your partner, cubicle mate, or someone else who’s basically always in your space. Looks like your old cold has a new home.
The last thing you want is to get steamrolled again by the very illness you just kicked. But is that even possible? Here, infectious disease experts lay out the science behind catching the same cold twice.
First, you should know that several different and extremely disrespectful viruses can cause the common cold.
They include rhinovirus (the usual source of the common cold), respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, coronavirus, and metapneumovirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All of these can prompt symptoms associated with the common cold, like a runny nose, cough, sore throat, sneezing, headache, and binge watching Outlander for so long that you start thinking in a Scottish accent.
Each virus also has subcategories of genetic diversity called serotypes (or strains), Alexander L. Greninger M.D., assistant director of the University of Washington Medicine Clinical Virology Laboratory, tells SELF. Rhinovirus, for instance, has over 100 serotypes, Dr. Greninger explains.
You’re not going to catch a cold from the same virus serotype again right after getting better. However, you can still get another cold from a different virus serotype or a different virus.
When you get sick, you develop antibodies for the virus serotype you’ve caught, Dr. Greninger explains. This keeps you from catching it again right away. But those antibodies won’t necessarily protect you from other forms of the virus.
Say you catch the serotype HRV (human rhinovirus)-A60, then improve right as your partner catches HRV-C17. You could get the common cold again if your body is vulnerable to that new rhinovirus serotype.
Alternately, you could have just triumphed over a coronavirus then come down with a rhinovirus from your cubemate soon after. Yes, it seems unfair. File your complaints with evolution and let us know when you hear back.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll always get sick if you’re exposed to a virus or virus serotype that’s different from the one you just got over. You may have developed antibodies for some circulating virus serotypes thanks to previous colds. Also, even though it’s not a guarantee, sometimes antibodies for one virus serotype do protect you from closely related serotypes, according to Merck Manuals.
Although it’s possible, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll catch two colds back-to-back in the same cold and flu season.
It’s rare that two cold-causing virus serotypes are circulating with the exact same intensity at the exact same time of year in a community, Waleed Javaid, M.D., director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown, tells SELF. So, if you get sick and someone in close proximity gets sick right after you, you may both have come down with the dominant serotype, against which you’re already protected. (Of course, they may have traveled and caught a different dominant illness from somewhere else, but generally speaking, they probably just caught your cold.)
This can be true even if you two experience different symptoms. If your cold mainly made your nose run and your throat feel scratched raw, but your partner has a cough, congestion, and body aches, that’s not a sign that you had a different virus or virus serotype, Dr. Javaid says.
Instead, it could simply be that your immune systems are focusing their efforts on fighting off the same virus serotype in different parts of your bodies, creating different symptoms, Dr. Greninger says. That’s the beauty of genetic diversity between two people. It could also be that you two have the same core symptoms but are experiencing additional ones due to “referred pain,” which is basically when one part of your body causes discomfort in another part since all your systems are interconnected.
- Can I Catch the Same Cold Twice?
- Don’t Waste Another Sick Day on Actually Being Sick Again
- The Blame Game
- And the Winner is…
- Cold-Fix for the Win
- The End to Your Netflix Binge
- 7 Signs It’s Not Just A Cold
- 1. Your Cold Got Worse
- 2. Your Cold Has Lasted More Than Two Weeks
- 3. Your Eyes Are Watery Or Itchy
- 4. You Suddenly Became Incredibly Ill
- 5. You’re Mostly Coughing
- 6. You Suddenly Develop A Fever
- 7. It Hurts To Swallow
- How Long Should A Cold Last Before You Go To The Doctor?
- Coping With Colds
- I have been feeling really unwell with flu symptoms for over a week now and still not showing any signs of recovery. What would you suggest?
- Why do I always feel sick?
- The art of being ill: why you should really just stay in bed
- I Sleep Well, Eat Healthy, and Exercise. So Why Am I Always Getting Sick?
Can I Catch the Same Cold Twice?
Living with someone or being in close proximity with coworkers during cold and flu season can feel like a ticking time bomb wondering who is going to get sick next. Just as you’re recovering from a case of the sniffles, your coworker starts sneezing or your partner gets a sore throat, and suddenly you’re on the lookout for inklings of new symptoms you might have. You wonder if the only way to avoid getting sick again is to be quarantined until spring.
But there’s good news: It’s actually highly unlikely to catch the same cold twice. Colds are caused by viruses, and when your immune system fights one off, it builds up antibodies to it. Even if you encounter lingering viral particles from the same cold strain you battled before—on your coffee mug, your toothbrush, or via a cough or a sneeze from someone nearby—you’re probably not going to be infected again.
WATCH THE VIDEO: Top 10 Foods for Preventing Cold & Flu
While you’re immune to that particular cold virus, you’re not protected from the more than 200 other viruses that can cause the sniffles. And if your partner or coworker has one of those strains, you could still get sick—even if you just recovered yourself. (Talk about bad luck.)
While you don’t have to replace your toothbrush every time you come down with a cold (since you can’t reinfect yourself with cold germs lingering on your brush), you’re not off the hook entirely for toothbrush hygiene. You can get sick from someone else’s toothbrush, whether you’re sharing (ew) or the bristles happen to touch the other person’s brush in your toothbrush holder.
RELATED: 20 Surprising Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu
With this in mind, it can’t hurt to replace your brush or at least sanitize it in boiling water to protect your partner from infection when you’ve been sick. And whether you’re sick or not, replace your toothbrush every three to four months—or sooner if the bristles start to fray.
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Don’t Waste Another Sick Day on Actually Being Sick Again
Feeling like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck? Nose running like a faucet? Chills got you three layers deep in blankets on the couch for days? We get it. We’ve all had the kind of cold or flu that makes you think you might not ever recover. Read on to find out how you can avoid feeling like this again, without breaking the bank or having to get a shot.
The Blame Game
You might be wondering who you can blame your illness on. Most colds are caused by the rhinovirus, which is highly contagious. When someone who is sick sneezes or coughs, they spread the cold with their virus-filled fluid. If you touch a surface that has been recently infected with the virus, or come into close contact with someone who is sick, you can catch a cold, especially if your immune system is weakened.
The most common cold symptoms are a runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough and fever and last up to a week. Colds are especially contagious during the first few days so take precaution not to spread it.
If it is the dreaded flu or influenza, you have a more serious upper respiratory ailment and more severe symptoms such as a hacking cough, moderate to high fever, chills, sore throat, stuffed nose, body aches and fatigue. The flu can be transmitted the same way as a cold.
Once these viruses enter your nose or throat, your immune system reacts and your throat gets inflamed and itchy and your nose produces more mucus. Your body uses a lot of energy to fight the virus, leaving you tired and drained.
And the Winner is…
A trip to the drugstore will provide a quick solution and have you back on track in no time. However, the drugstore and pharmacy aisles are filled with a ton of choices that promise to rid you of your cold fast, but how do you know if they work? And exactly what is in them? Most cold and flu remedies only treat the initial symptoms for a few hours at best. However, you want a remedy that not only fights the symptoms but the virus as well. And that is just what Cold-Fix does.
Cold-Fix for the Win
Cold-Fix is the leading homeopathic solution for cold and flu, and the best choice you can buy to fight your symptoms fast. It has been available in Europe and Asia for over 10 years, with proven efficacy.
It works quickly to treat your symptoms and also strengthens your immune system so you can get better, faster. Some of the benefits are:
- Shortens the duration of colds and flu
- Relieves nasal congestion, cough, and fever
- Helps prevent colds and flu
- No reported serious side effects or interactions with other medications
This remedy is antiviral and immunomodulatory, containing human Gamma interferon, to enhance the body’s immune response to viruses. And since it is FDA-cleared, you can be assured that it is a safe way to treat your entire family’s cold or flu.
The End to Your Netflix Binge
Once you start taking Cold-Fix, eating healthy (homemade chicken soup, anyone?), drinking water, and getting plenty of rest will also help your body fight the symptoms. That way, you can off the couch, get back to work, and your life faster. Pick up your Cold-Fix today!
7 Signs It’s Not Just A Cold
When I came down with a hacking cough a few weeks ago, I wasn’t too concerned — I assumed that I had simply caught a cold, the same cold that every human being in town seemed to be nursing at the time. But as the days passed, I noticed that my cold seemed different than the ones I’d had in the past — my nose barely ran, but I had a hideous dry cough that woke me up in the middle of the night. I also wasn’t getting any better; if anything, I seemed to be getting worse. But I was convinced that it wasjust a cold, because … well, because it wasn’t the flu, and those are pretty much your only two options, right?
After a week, I finally began to wonder if my cold had lasted long enough to see a doctor about it, and booked an appointment with my GP. I assumed he would pat me on the back, be mildly annoyed that I had wasted his time, and send me on my way; instead, he told me I had an acute upper respiratory infection — basically a cold that had gotten way out of hand. He sent me home with prescriptions for prednisone and some very strong, Trainspotting-level cough syrup. I took the medicines, finally slept through the night, and felt way better in less than a day.
How can you learn from my cough-related foolishness? Don’t assume that literally any sickness that gives you a cough or runny nose is just a cold. There are a number of more severe illnesses with similar symptoms — so pay attention.
For more tips on how to tell the difference between your standard “sit on the couch, watch Bojack and pity yourself” cold and something more serious, as well as some info on how long a cold should last before you see a doctor, read on.
1. Your Cold Got Worse
You seemed to have started off with a regular, garden variety cold — but suddenly, things are so bad that you can’t work, you can’t sleep properly, and you’re not getting any better. Basically, you feel like a bagel that got dropped into a filthy sidewalk puddle. What on earth is going on with your danged body?
“If you start to feel worse and really aren’t feeling better after three to four days,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, MD, an infectious diseases expert and assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, tells Bustle, “that can be a sign that maybe going down to your lower respiratory tract, to your lungs, which could cause things like pneumonia, which is an infection in the lungs.”
You may have developed what’s known as a secondary infection. A secondary infection can occur when your immune system is weakened by a primary infection — say, you contract the cold virus, and then contract a bacterial pneumonia as your secondary infection. Common secondary infections can include sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia — serious illnesses that either require or can really benefit from medical attention.
Photo credit: Dragana Gordic/
2. Your Cold Has Lasted More Than Two Weeks
Most colds last one week to 10 days, according to the Mayo Clinic. People who are lucky may only have a cold for three days; people who are really unlucky might be sick for two weeks. But if you cold has lasted for more than two weeks — and especially if it doesn’t appear to be getting any better — let someone in a lab coat look at you.
“Unless you’ve had symptoms for two weeks or more, it is probably viral,” like a cold, says Hawkinson. But if your illness is lasting longer, see a medical professional, who can see if your illness is actually bacterial.
3. Your Eyes Are Watery Or Itchy
If your “colds” happen at roughly the same time every year, you might not be catching a viral illness at all — you may instead have seasonal allergies. It’s difficult to tell the difference between a cold and allergies sometimes, since they share so many symptoms, like sneezing and having a runny nose. Hawkinson suggests keeping an eye out for fevers (never a seasonal allergy symptom); also, note if you have itchy eyes (rarely a cold symptom),
Photo credit: LightField Studios/
4. You Suddenly Became Incredibly Ill
Colds usually have a bit of a build up. But a flu can take you from “zero” to “I am an extra on The Walking Dead” over the course of a day.
The flu “hits you like a bolt of lightning,” Steven Lamm, MD, internist and faculty member at NYU School of Medicine, tells Prevention. “You’ll likely run a fever of above 101F, and you’ll be flat out.” So if you suddenly feel too sick to function, know that you probably have a flu on your hands — and it’s good to know sooner rather than later, because most antiviral treatments for flu work best when taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
5. You’re Mostly Coughing
We’re conditioned to believe that anything that involves coughing or sneezing is just a cold. But an illness whose primary symptoms are coughing, wheezing, and pain or tightness in your chest could be bronchitis — and since, according to the Mayo Clinic, bronchitis commonly occurs in people who have just had colds, you might not even notice that you’ve developed it.
Though some cases of bronchitis clear up on their own, others may require medication — so make sure to see a doctor to find out what you’re dealing with.
6. You Suddenly Develop A Fever
If you didn’t start out with a fever, but develop one several days after the start of your illness, that could be a sign that something more complex is afoot. “If your symptoms worsen, such as worsening actual fever or new symptoms progressive worsening headache or progressive worsening cough and chest pain,” you could be developing a secondary infection, says Hawkinson.
7. It Hurts To Swallow
Strep throat can often feel like a run of the mill cold-related sore throat at first. But if you have strep throat, your symptoms will feel different — according to the CDC, strep throat sufferers may experience pain swallowing, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and swollen tonsils.
It’s important to get your strep throat treated — letting it linger can lead to serious illnesses like rheumatic fever or even inflamed kidneys. So if you think your sore throat could be strep, head straight to the doctor — they can give you an easy test to figure out if you do indeed have strep, and if you do, they can give you the proper medications to help you feel better.
How Long Should A Cold Last Before You Go To The Doctor?
And how can you tell when it’s time to seek medical attention? “It just kind of boils down to knowing your own body, knowing what type of symptoms you’re feeling,” Hawkinson says. “Are you really beginning to feel better or are you actually feeling worse? And that is probably the best guideline to go by.”
This post was originally published on November 6, 2015. It was updated on July 1, 2019.
Coping With Colds
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What’s a Cold?
A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory system. This means it can affect the nose, throat, and sinuses. A cold virus gets inside your body and makes you sick.
Most teens get between two and four colds a year. That’s not surprising — colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States, and cause more school absences than any other illness.
What Causes Colds?
Most colds are caused by viruses (called rhinoviruses) that are in invisible droplets in the air you breathe or on things you touch. If one of these viruses gets through the protective lining of the nose and throat, it triggers an immune system reaction. This can cause a sore throat and headache, and make it hard to breathe.
No one knows exactly why people become infected with colds at certain times. But no matter what you hear, sitting or sleeping in a draft, not dressing warmly when it’s chilly, or going outside with wet hair will not cause someone to catch a cold.
Dry air — indoors or outside — can lower resistance to infection by viruses. So can allergies, lack of sleep, stress, not eating properly, or being around someone who smokes. And smokers are more likely to catch colds than people who don’t smoke. Their symptoms will probably be worse, last longer, and be more likely to lead to bronchitis or even pneumonia.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cold?
The first symptoms of a cold are often a tickle in the throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. You also might feel very tired and have a sore throat, cough, headache, mild fever, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. Mucus from your nose may become thick yellow or green.
Are Colds Contagious?
Yes. Rhinoviruses can stay alive as droplets in the air or on surfaces for as long as 3 hours or even more. So if you touch your mouth or nose after touching someone or something that’s been contaminated by one of these viruses, you’ll probably catch a cold (unless you’re already immune to the particular virus from having been exposed to it before).
If you already have a cold, you’re more likely to spread it to others if you don’t wash your hands after you cough or sneeze. Going to school or doing normal activities probably won’t make you feel any worse. But it will make it more likely that your cold will spread to classmates or friends.
How Long Do Colds Last?
Cold symptoms usually start 2 or 3 days after a person has been exposed to the virus. People with colds are most contagious for the first 3 or 4 days after the symptoms begin and can be contagious for up to 3 weeks. Although some colds can linger for as long as 2 weeks, most clear up within a week.
How Are Colds Treated?
Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines can’t prevent a cold, but some people think these ease symptoms. They won’t help you get better faster, though. And sometimes OTC cold medicines can cause stomach upset or make someone feel dizzy, tired, or unable to sleep. If your nose feels really stuffy, try saline (saltwater) drops to help clear it.
Ask your parents (who can talk with a doctor or pharmacist) what medicine you should take, if any. Most doctors recommend acetaminophen for aches, pains, and fever. If you have a cold, you should not take aspirin or any medicine that contains aspirin, unless your doctor says it’s OK. Use of aspirin by teens with colds or other viral illness may increase the risk of developing Reye syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can be fatal.
Your doctor can let you know if it’s OK to take an antihistamine or decongestant, but there is little evidence that these really make a difference.
How Can I Feel Better?
Like all viruses, those that cause colds have to run their course. Getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids can do as much good as medicine as far as helping someone with a cold feel better.
Whether you feel like sleeping around the clock or just taking things a bit easier, pay attention to what your body is telling you when you have a cold. A warm bath or heating pad can soothe aches and pains, and the steam from a hot shower can help you breathe more easily.
Don’t worry about whether to feed a cold or starve a fever. Just eat when you’re hungry. And you might have heard that chicken soup can cure a cold. There’s no real proof of this, but sick people have been swearing by it for more than 800 years.
When Should I Go to the Doctor?
Teens who catch colds usually don’t get very sick or need medical attention. But talk to a doctor if any of these things happen to you:
- Your cold symptoms last for more than a week or appear at the same time every year or whenever you’re exposed to pollen, dust, animals, or some other substance (you could have an allergy).
- You have trouble breathing or wheeze when you catch a cold (you could have asthma).
- Your symptoms get worse after 3 days or so instead of better (this might mean strep throat, sinusitis, bronchitis, or some other bacterial infection, especially if you smoke).
You should see your doctor if you think you might have more than a cold or if you’re getting worse instead of getting better.
Other signs that it’s time to call your doctor include:
- coughing that lasts for more than 2–3 weeks
- inability to keep food or liquids down
- increasing headache or facial or throat pain
- severely painful sore throat
- fever of 103°F (39.3°C) or higher, or a fever of 102°F (38.9°C) that lasts for more than a day
- chest or stomach pain
- swollen glands (lymph nodes)
A doctor won’t be able to identify which specific virus is causing a cold. But your doctor can check your throat and ears and possibly also take a throat culture to make sure your symptoms due to another condition. A throat culture is a simple procedure that involves brushing the inside of the throat with a long cotton swab. Examining the germs on the swab will help determine whether you have strep throat and need treatment with antibiotics.
If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, be sure to take them exactly as directed. If you stop taking them too soon — even if you’re feeling better — the infection may not go away and you can develop other problems
Can Colds Be Prevented?
Sooner or later everybody catches a cold. But you can strengthen your immune system’s infection-fighting ability by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough rest.
Although some people recommend alternative treatments for colds (such as zinc and vitamin C in large doses, or herbal products such as echinacea), none of these is proven to prevent or effectively treat colds. Because herbal products can have negative side effects, lots of doctors don’t recommend them.
Reviewed by: Patricia Solo-Josephson, MD Date reviewed: June 2017
I have been feeling really unwell with flu symptoms for over a week now and still not showing any signs of recovery. What would you suggest?
I am sorry to hear that you have been feeling unwell with flu symptoms for the past week. Most people with similar infections will be starting to feel better at this stage, but as you are not recovering, I would suggest that you think about making an appointment to see your doctor. There could be a secondary infection lurking around which requires treatment with antibiotics or another reason for you still feeling poorly.
Meanwhile, if you have not already done so, you might wish to try a course of Echinacea. With a persistent bout of flu or severe cold, a combination of Echinacea with Elderberry is the one I would advise you to use. You should be able to find it locally in your health food store.
Don’t forget that it is important for you to keep hydrated, especially if you are feeling a bit feverish. Any fluid will be fine, but plain water is the best. I hope that you will feel better soon.
Dr. Jen Tan
Why do I always feel sick?
Below are some of the common reasons why someone might always feel sick, plus their symptoms, and how to treat each one.
Share on PinterestChronic anxiety may cause someone to feel sick all the time.
Many people may not associate anxiety with feeling sick, but often it can make a person feel sick to their stomach.
A person with anxiety may feel nauseous, or they may find that they get sick more often because their anxiety weakens their immune responses.
Other symptoms of anxiety include:
- shortness of breath
- feeling dizzy
- increased heart rate
- shaking or trembling
- avoiding certain situations
It is normal for people to have some anxiety. When a person feels anxious continuously, and this gets in the way of daily life, they may wish to talk to a doctor about anxiety disorders.
If a person feels anxiety on most days for 6 months or more, they may be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
A person may have a specific anxiety disorder or a phobia if their anxiety is specific to certain situations, such as social contact or unhygienic places.
Anxiety and anxiety disorders are very treatable. Possible options include:
- Resolving the cause of anxiety, which may be lifestyle factors, relationships, drugs, or alcohol.
- Psychotherapy or talking therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT).
- Talking to a doctor and taking medications, such as beta-blockers.
Experiencing stress here and there is completely normal, but continual stress can greatly impact the mind and body.
Extreme stress, such as that caused by grief, shock, or traumatic experiences can also affect people physically.
People with chronic or extreme stress can have many different symptoms, as stress affects the immune system, nervous system, hormones, and heart functioning.
Other symptoms of chronic stress can include:
- a lack of energy
- digestive problems, such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and constipation
- insomnia, or difficulty sleeping
- muscle pain or stiffness
- more frequent infections, such as colds, flu, and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- reduced desire to engage in social activities or settings
The only definite way to treat chronic stress is to address and change the underlying cause. However, several lifestyle habits can greatly reduce stress and its symptoms.
Many traditional and alternative therapies exist to help manage or alleviate stress.
Good ways for someone to treat their stress include:
- Resolving the sources of conflict that is causing their upsets.
- Doing regular exercise as often as they can.
- Spending a decent amount of time outdoors.
- Practicing exercises for mindfulness and stress release, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and guided visualization.
- Avoiding bringing job issues or unfinished work home, and avoiding taking home-related issues to work.
- Getting a stress-releasing hobby, especially one that promotes creativity, such as drawing, writing, painting, or music.
- Asking for support and understanding from family and friends.
- Seeking help from a mental health professional.
Lack of sleep
Share on PinterestBeing chronically sleep-deprived may cause a person to feel sick all of the time.
Proper, regular sleep is important for mental and physical health. When someone is chronically sleep-deprived, they may feel sick all the time.
Many chronic medical conditions can interfere with sleep, usually intensifying the symptoms of both conditions.
Common symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation, or a lack of adequate sleep, include:
- daytime sleepiness
- general fatigue
- difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
- irritability and anxiety
- more frequent infections and longer healing time
Common ways to improve sleep deprivation include:
- set a sleep and wake schedule, and stick to it, even on the weekends
- remove any sources of distraction from the bedroom, such as electronics
- seek treatment for conditions that hinder proper sleep, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, and chronic pain
- avoid energy drinks and too much caffeine
- relax before bed with yoga, meditation, a warm bath, or a book
Poor diet and dehydration
Dehydration and malnutrition, or having a poor diet, both put stress on the body. A chronic lack of proper nutrients and hydration can cause many problems, including:
- chronic fatigue and weakness
- dizziness or light-headedness
- difficulty concentrating
- poor immune health and extended healing time
- weight loss
Recommendations for daily water intake differ, depending on a person’s age, sex, pregnancy status, and illness. It is often said that most people should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.
If a person suspects they are dehydrated, they should visit their doctor to find out the best treatments.
To treat and prevent malnutrition, people should eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in foods, including:
- whole grains
- whole fruits and vegetables
- pulses, such as dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- healthy fats, such as in fatty fishes, virgin olive oil, most nuts, whole eggs, avocados, and dark chocolate
Poor physical hygiene, especially oral, can cause a variety of symptoms that could make someone feel sick all of the time. Poor hygiene makes it easier for bacteria to grow and thrive, which can result in infection.
The skin is the body’s natural barrier to things that can cause infection, such as bacteria and viruses.
Washing the body, and keeping clothes and bedding clean can help to keep bacteria out, and keep natural, healthy bacterial communities in check.
People have a lot of blood vessels in their gums. This blood supply means that chronic, untreated gum infections can spread through the body. Severe gum disease has also been linked to several medical conditions.
Regular washing of the body, clothes, and bedding should help treat and prevent most infections related to poor hygiene. And practicing oral hygiene habits can help treat, and greatly reduce the likelihood of developing gum infections and disease.
Good oral hygiene habits include:
- brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing regularly. Fluoride toothpaste is available for purchase online, alongside dental floss.
- having regular dental check-ups and cleanings
- quitting smoking or using tobacco products
- avoiding sugary foods and drinks
Alcohol, caffeine, drugs, or medications
Share on PinterestAlcohol may interfere with sleep and generally make a person feel unwell.
Alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs, and many prescription medications are known to interfere with sleep, which can lead to a general feeling of being unwell.
An overuse, or long-term use, of chemicals that act as stimulants or depressants, can cause certain mental and physical changes.
A person should avoid drinks, foods, and drugs with these chemicals in them, especially in the evening or before bedtime. It is important to remember that caffeine and sugar can have a strong effect on how a person feels.
When someone’s symptoms are caused by prescription medication, they should speak to their doctor to find an alternative.
Autoimmune conditions weaken the immune system and make it easier to develop infections, colds, and flu. This means that people with chronic immune conditions tend to feel sick more often and may take longer to recover from illnesses.
Common immune conditions that can make people feel sick all the time include:
- celiac disease
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
- type 1 diabetes
- multiple sclerosis
- Graves’ disease
Autoimmune conditions cause many symptoms, including fatigue, rashes, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems.
The only way to treat symptoms related to an autoimmune condition is to seek medical treatment and monitoring for the condition.
Exposure to infection
A person who has a lot of social contact with other people is exposed to things that cause infection, such as viruses and bacteria, more than other people.
People may be exposed to more infections if they:
- work with children
- work in the healthcare industry
- live at close quarters with other people, such as in dormitories
- travel a lot or use public transportation frequently
A person cannot always avoid social contact, though they can use the following techniques to reduce their risk of infection:
- frequent hand-washing
- covering the face when close to someone with a contagious illness
- using hand sanitizers, available for purchase online.
People with anemia do not have enough hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen, in their blood. When their tissues and cells do not get enough oxygen, they cannot function properly. This means that people with anemia tend to always feel under the weather.
Common symptoms of anemia include:
- fatigue or tiring easily
- difficulty concentrating
- shortness of breath
- pale skin
Often, the easiest way to treat anemia is to make dietary changes or to take iron supplements, available for purchase online.
Foods rich in iron include:
- dark green, leafy vegetables
- beans, lentils, and legumes
- chicken, fish, pork, and beef
- nuts and seeds
- brown or wild rice
- fortified cereals and bread products
The art of being ill: why you should really just stay in bed
She hopes her book, a handbag-sized guide to being a better invalid, will encourage people to slow down, stay at home when they’re ill and relearn the skill of recuperation.
It contains practical advice such as “store cupboard essentials”, “the importance of water” and “convalescing in style”. The tone is more humorous than prescriptive (“a bit like those African porcupines that empty their bowels at the first hint of danger … one of the first signs of illness might be diarrhoea”) and the material is presented in small chunks for invalids with trouble digesting. There’s also a disclaimer at the start: “This book is not intended for someone critically ill or in need of urgent medical attention.”
Gary Linekar, presenting BBC Sports Personality of the Year with a terrible cold
Sinclair herself, who left her job as a freelance television producer a couple of years ago to care for her sick father, got used to navigating her way around illness after spending large amounts of her childhood in bed with tonsillitis.
Her mother would care for her using home-made remedies such as vinegar in warm water or chicken soup, and made sure she always recovered fully before allowing her to get up.
Sinclair, now 60, has little patience for those who don’t understand these basic principles. “I get so irritated with my friends who say, ‘Well, I’ve taken these antibiotics for two days now and I’m still not feeling better’, ” she says. “You just think, ‘Hang on a minute, that’s not how it works.’ ”
So how have we reached the state of affairs where we can justify a book like this, full of information that many (particularly older generations) will see as simple common sense? One reason may be that children now receive so many immunisations, Sinclair thinks. “In the past, being ill was part of your childhood because everybody got measles, mumps, chickenpox, German measles. You had to learn how to deal with it.”
In the Fifties and Sixties it wasn’t uncommon to attend “measles parties”, where children were brought together to catch the disease and get it out of their systems early on. As a consequence, children learnt how to stay in bed and entertain themselves until they were well again. “You just had to be good at being ill because you didn’t have a choice,” says Sinclair. “There weren’t miracle drugs or parents pushing you out of the door to go back to school.” Miranda Hart, the comedian, even credits her frequent spells of childhood illness as a creative time that helped develop her imagination.
Comedian Miranda Hart, who found illness in childhood quite useful
Now, however, because it is possible to avoid illness throughout childhood, we are unprepared when we grow up and contract flu or a bout of some nasty “itis” or other. We will struggle against staying at home until it cannot be avoided, and then complain loudly about being ill without knowing how to make the experience less painful.
During her research, Sinclair spoke to several nurses and GPs who found this lack of awareness frustrating. “Often are called out to things that ought to be self-managed, but people have gone beyond the point where they know how to help themselves and they expect the medical profession to step in.
“If you’ve got a sore throat, it’s unlikely to be something that requires antibiotics. It probably does require not spending your whole day on the phone but, instead, gargling with salt water and drinking honey and lemon, all of these old-fashioned things that my mum used to do for me.”
An overinflated sense of self-importance is another cause of the problem, it seems. “Everyone’s lives are so stressful and pressured that they simply feel there isn’t the time to be sick,” says Telegraph health columnist Dr Max Pemberton. “People refuse to believe that a cold or a cough takes time to get over so they go to the doctor expecting a magical cure … and there isn’t one.”
“There’s a sense of ‘I’m too special to be allowed to be ill’, ” continues Sinclair. “I’m always wondering whose jobs are so important that if they took a day off, the world would stop turning.”
Jill Sinclair, author of ‘The Art of Being Ill’
Of course, there’s also the view that succumbing to sickness somehow signifies a frailer moral fibre, something men are particularly guilty of. “It’s become the thinking that illness is a sign of weakness,” Sinclair says. “We’re not ‘allowed’ to be ill for fear of it being equated with a kind of feebleness.”
The truth is that illness is not a sign of weakness, merely a sign that we are unwell. But sickness is now so undesirable that it’s become something to fear. “Look at the language we use around illness – ‘battling’ flu and ‘fighting’ off a cold, and it’s always ‘us and them’ – when, in fact, the thing about an illness is that you really need to be on its side, and you need to know how to give your body the best possible chance of recovery.”
A change of vocabulary, a different attitude and a better awareness of home remedies, rather than always resorting to antibiotics, are clearly needed. “We have to take responsibility for our own health because we know the health service is already creaking,” Sinclair adds. But above all, she prescribes the need for more general sympathy.
“We just have to be a bit kinder to people and encourage them to take better care of themselves. Then if people do get genuinely ill, you don’t have to threaten them with losing their jobs or terrible things that will happen if they don’t turn up to work.”
Ideally, they’ll then stay at home and spare the rest of us, too. So perhaps if you make just one resolution this year, forget wearing yourself out at the gym and, instead, make life a little easier by embracing the art of being ill.
SICKBED COMFORT – QUOTES ON ILLNESS
‘There is one consolation about being sick; and that is the possibility that you may recover to a better state than you were ever in before.’
Henry David Thoreau
‘Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.’
‘I enjoy convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worthwhile.’
George Bernard Shaw
‘The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well.’
I Sleep Well, Eat Healthy, and Exercise. So Why Am I Always Getting Sick?
As an editor at Health, I practice what we preach. I get 7 to 8 hours of sleep most nights, I make it to my favorite workout classes regularly, and I eat all of my servings of fruits and vegetables in every day (okay, I leave room for wine and dessert too).
Yet every year, I manage to come down with several colds, bouts of strep throat, and stomach bugs. I even got shingles a few years ago. My burning question: Why is my immune system so weak?
RELATED: Here Are 7 Reasons to Stop Putting Off Your Flu Shot
The short answer: It’s possible that some people have naturally stronger immune systems than others. “I have some perfectly healthy patients who get five to six upper respiratory infections—aka, the common cold, or more rarely, full-blown influenza—a year, and others with the same health profile who hardly ever get sick,” says Holly Phillips, MD, an internal medicine physician in New York City and author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough. “It doesn’t seem fair, and honestly it’s not.”
On the flip side, some individuals are also thought to be especially resistant to certain bacterial and viral infections. “Immunologists refer to them as having ‘super-immunity,’ and their genetic makeup is the focus of an entire field of research,” Dr. Phillips says.
Your immunity is determined by several factors. Genetics play a large role, says Paolo Boffetta, MD, professor of medicine, hematology, and medical oncology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Immunological genes are many and complex, and your immune response depends on their combined performance,” Dr. Boffetta explains.
RELATED: 20 Surprising Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu
Experts also believe that you build up immunity while you are young, or possibly even before you are born. “There are factors during infancy and childhood, and perhaps also in utero, that contribute to the development of the immune system, but they are not fully understood,” Dr. Boffetta says. What’s more, environmental factors, such as pollutants and toxins, may also weaken your immune system over time.
One standout theory for why some people may just be more susceptible to illness is the hygiene hypothesis—the idea that the more bacteria and viruses you come into contact with as a kid, the “smarter” your immune system becomes. The thinking is “keeping kids extra clean and smothering them in hand sanitizer may cause more harm than good in the long run,” Dr. Phillips explains.
On top of that, lifestyle factors, including stress, obesity, heavy alcohol drinking, and poor hygiene, can all weaken your immune response and lead to more frequent infections, Dr. Boffetta notes.
How to strengthen your immune system
Just because your immunity is not something you can entirely control doesn’t mean you should abandon your early bedtime or start loading up on junk food. Nutrients from fruits and veggies, like zinc, iron, and vitamin C, are essential for a healthy immune system, Dr. Phillips says, as are omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3s found in fatty fish, like salmon, also encourage the production of lymphocytes—immune cells that are the front line of defense against infections,” she explains. And it’s better to get your immune-protective nutrients through food than through supplements, she adds.
RELATED: 7 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
Getting plenty of sleep and exercise does in fact help boost your immune system—whether it feels like these healthy habits are working in your favor or not. Exercise improves circulation; increased circulation boosts the production of germ-fighting antibodies, Dr. Phillips explains. “Exercise also lessens stress, which helps your immune system function at its best,” she says.
Sleep is a health-restorative time for the body. “When you sleep, your body releases immune proteins called cytokines, which help fight infections and control the body’s response to stress,” Dr. Phillips says. “So a lack of sleep can lead to an under-production of cytokines and other protective immune cells, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.”
Almost every modern disease is caused or affected by body
inflammation. Your immune system can become compromised by stress, diet, and lifestyle. Everyone has had common illnesses such as a sore throat, colds, broken bones, etc. Your body goes into the appropriate defense to ward off these diseases or trauma by generating the appropriate white cells, known as antigens, to fight off offensive bacteria or viruses to survive.
Your body’s immune system produces antibodies and destroys harmful invaders. This kind of body inflammatory is useful and necessary.
When is body inflammation bad? When the immune response overacts and our body no longer can tell the different between healthy body tissues and antigens. Your immune system begins to destroy healthy body tissues due to mixed messages transmitted from the brain. Unfortunately, in many cases, inflammation causes PAIN!
Science hasn’t figured how and why the body overacts or why it causes the brain to generate these mixed messages. There are some who are more susceptible than others.
What are the seeds to autoimmune diseases: bacteria or virus, chemical, drugs or environmental irritants?
To define allergies more….
There are two types of allergies we respond to, the first is when the body reacts to the environment or internal allergens, such as plants, grass, mold, food allergies, etc.
The second, when your body’s immune system doesn’t recognize healthy body tissue and attacks it like it was a foreign invader, in cases of asthma, arthritis, thyroid, multiple sclerosis. Autoimmune disease can affect more than one body tissue and can cause abnormal organ growth and change its function such as joints, connective tissues, muscles, red blood, and skin.
According to Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are approximately 50 million Americans affected and the numbers are rising. There are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases and usually run in families. Seventy-five percent of those affected are women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
Many autoimmune diseases have similar symptoms, which makes it tough to diagnose. There are no cures, so traditional treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the autoimmune disease; symptoms can include fatigue, fever, just feeling sick or off.
Conventional treatment can include diet, supplementation, and medication to quiet or suppress symptoms and maintain the body’s ability to fight the disease.
Some common autoimmune diseases are –
• Inflammatory bowel disease – affecting the colon and small intestine • Celiac disease – reaction to gluten that can damage the lining of the small intestine • Hashimoto’s disease – inflammation of the thyroid (hypo) • Graves’ disease – overactive thyroid • Rheumatoid Arthritis – inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues • Psoriatic arthritis – inflammation of skin, creating scaly patches, plus the inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – affecting the brain and spinal cord • Type 1 diabetes – destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreases • Lupus – inflammation of combined joint, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood or nervous systems
How can you control or diminish Autoimmune symptoms?
DIET… EXERCISE… BALANCE….. Support Your Immune System!
Diet – You have billions of immune cells that are always working to keep you healthy by identifying and eliminating harmful substances that make their way into your blood, 70-80% of these cells live in your small intestines.
Depending on how you feed your body, food is your foundation. Think of it this way: if you build your body on junk and processed foods you will have a weak foundation. If you build your body on nutrient-rich, organic, whole-foods you are going to have a strong foundation. Be mindful of what you eat at every meal and snack.
Keep a food diary – there are plenty free apps you can down onto your phone to help you to remember what you ate from meal-to-meal. Obviously, keep away from known food allergens and toxins. Look at what you want to eat, if wheat, sugar, dairy, soy calls to you more times than you care, this is a type of food addiction that is NOT good for you. Food is meant to enjoy, and it is your source of ENERGY.
Exercise – If you spend most of your life sitting in front of a computer and TV. You’re not living, but you’re slowly dying. For your circulation sake, you need to move. Yes, we all need quiet down to sit and reflect, but again, too much of a good thing is also bad for you.
Pick up that body and move. You don’t have to do all of your exercises at one time. You can spread them out throughout the day. That is a good start. Don’t know where to start? Start with a two minutes routine. By walking to get your mail can be the beginning of your two-minute routine. Then add walking time, by walking to the end of the street, then around the block.
Balance – Are you getting enough rest? I admit I am a work-a-colic. I can easily work day and night. I can start to work right after my getting up in the morning rituals until I go to bed. (Again, too much of a good thing is bad.) I am learning when to STOP. Too much work puts my body in overdrive, and I can’t sleep, not good. Know your limits.
Medical testing – There is medical test for body inflammation or autoimmune disease ask your doctor about: • C-reactive protein test. This test measures degrees of hidden inflammation throughout in your body. • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) measures how much inflammation is in your body.
• Complete blood count (CBC) measures the number of red and white blood cells. Unusual high or low number may indicate inflammatory problems. • Anti-nuclear antibody test – autoantibody test looks for anti-nuclear antibodies, which attacks nuclei of cells in your body. • Auto-antibody tests – looks for specific antibodies in your tissues.
Now you understand some of the causes to body inflammation, be proactive instead or reactive. All it takes is that first step towards good health.
About the writer – Helen Chin Lui is a Certified Reflexologist and a Certified Energy Medicine Practitioner. She is the owner of the Healing Place in Medfield, MA Helen specializes helping people of all ages to find relief from chronic digestive disorders, chronic pain and balances hormones naturally.
For Helen’s free report “Proven Alternative Ways to Heal Common Chronic Digestive Problems: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know Can Keep You From Healing” click here.