Late Enough I Ask Advice Button

I Ask: How Do I Keep From Getting Sick?

I have gotten sick more this winter than any other time that I can remember. IN MY LIFE. I know that I’m all old and gray now, but I’m also tired. Oh, and tired of being sick, too.

I caught my kids’ cold last week. I KNOW. I KNOW. I shouldn’t be surprised. I may have washed my hands a lot, but I also stuck one of N’s boogers in my own nose by accident…

Wipe that shock off your face! I’m a picker (as we learned last Monday). The day of the booger-to-booger transfer was inevitable. {sigh} I picked her nose and on the way to the tissue, I get distracted. Distracted pickers? Pick. Oops.

This winter, I’ve had the stomach virus twice (why do I think that you’d click on a link for a trip down Alex’s stomach virus lane?), bronchitis and four colds, which is more like six or eight because I pretended that I had allergies all those other times. What? I’m allergic to puffy winter coats. And dead trees. Probably.

I know that there isn’t a magic pill (well, there is but it’s illegal and has nothing to do with staying well), but besides not putting other people’s snot into my nose, I’m at a loss. And I know my friend, Carrie, will want to know, too, since every other tweet I’ve seen from her this winter has “emergency room” in it.

Save two people with one comment!  It’s like two birds with one stone but way less violent.

So I ask: How do I(we) keep from getting sick?

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

56 thoughts to “I Ask: How Do I Keep From Getting Sick?”

  1. What a rough winter! We all had the stomach thing twice here too. No colds, thankfully, but the stomach virus is Pure Evil. Every fall and winter, my family takes more supplements to boost our immune systems. We take vitamin D, probiotics, multivitamin, omega 3s. Also, at the first sign of a cold I have everyone take sambucus (elderberry syrup).

        This is the Sambucus I use. When we feel something coming on, I take a tablespoon with each meal and then one before I go to bed. I give the boys a teaspoon each of those times as well. It tastes good so they actually like to take it.
        This is the kids probiotic. I give them one each morning and if they have any digestive issues or are on an antibiotic for some reason, I’ll up the dosage to a few times a day.
        My husband and I take this probiotic every day. I love it b/c it’s so tiny and super easy to swallow. Jon has digestive issues b/c he had lyme years ago and ever since then his system has been horrible. He especially needs these to keep his system under some sort of normal control.

        I know all this stuff adds up, but I’ve rationalized that you can’t really put a price on health. Hope this helps you guys out! And I hope those nasty germs stay away. With little ones in school, there’s almost no way to avoid some of this stuff.

  2. The GERMS are getting angry! This has been a hard winter sickness wise for our family too. Rioo got sick at least twice and he never gets sick. Lulu spent more time sick than well up until March. I threw up twice at two different periods and cannot begin to count the boxes of tissues I personally went through. The only one not getting sick? My husband. And that’s a good thing because I would NOT have been able to handle that. Send your info. THIS WAY.

    1. I love my neti pot but haven’t used it because I ran out of the little salt-like packets. Do you create your own salt water? I tried once and burned the heck out of my nose. Any tips?

      1. I’ve only used the salt that you can buy for this purpose at the store (I’ve seen it at Ellwood Thompson’s and Whole Foods). I remember getting a warning when I first bought my neti pot about NOT using anything other than salt produced for this purpose, though I can’t remember why. Maybe the type of salt you used is the reason it burned your nose? I’m still working out of a large bag that I’ve had for years. It still burns my nose sometimes once I get down to the last bit of salt water and I usually stop at that point…I have found that mixing the salt in with the water really well helps. Good luck!

  3. I feel kind of silly giving a doctor medical advice, but here goes. Well, really this is less medical advice and more “my momma says.” 1. Get enough sleep, rest time is when the body does its best fighting. Old saying “Viruses can’t live in a well-rested body.”
    2. Watch what you drink. More water, no fizzy chemical stuff. Water is the lubricant for life, everything works better with plenty of water.
    3. Avoid sugar. I know.
    4. Move your body. Exercise (not working out but being active) stimulates the lymphatic system and helps it clean you out.

    So I’ve written a post myself and it is all impossible. But that’s my secret and i went all winter without any sick days and only one cold.

    1. Don’t feel silly — I’m a doctor ASKING for advice. I win!
      I most definitely need to increase my water intake again, but there’s no way I’m giving up sugar. Maybe I just drink 128 ounces of water/day to even it out. Or to keep me in the bathroom so I can’t eat candy

  4. OMG if you find something that works please (cough, cough) let me know (hack)! We are sick at least every other weekend.

  5. I have a friend who swears by garlic. Make some chicken soup and load it up with garlic. It’s also a great excuse to gorge on garlic bread, and that’s a win in my book. Of course, nobody’s gonna want to be sharing tissues (or anything else with you), but you may be on your way to healthy. Alone. Feel better fast!

    1. I adore garlic bread. Does your friend do garlic daily or just at the first sign of a cold? I used to take garlic pills when it was shown to lower cholesterol. But now my cholesterol isn’t high. Or I’m a vampire.

  6. I drink an Emergen-C every morning and when I feel sick or sniffly you can have up to 4 a day and it just has a bunch of vitamins. I also take zicam once I have a cold or if Brett’s sick and I’m trying not to catch it. I don’t get sick much – only when I come to your house 🙂

      1. I use the orange flavored rapid melt ones that melt on your tongue. They don’t taste bad and I think they really work if you take them at the start of feeling sick.

  7. I just take zinc and vitamin C when I’m trying to get better or avoid getting sick. But I actually heard an interview on the radio recently of this guy who wrote a book about how not to get sick. His number one advice? Eat a raw clove of garlic every morning. I am serious, he actually does this and says it really helps. I think I’d rather have bronchitis! Here’s the book- I have NO idea if it is scientifically sound:

    1. That thing about the garlic??? TRUE! You can also use it to avoid getting Turista (you know that pukey sick thing from traveling?) I eat a bowl of garlic soup when I think I may get sick…

      1. I swallow tablets a couple times a day, when I remember to- I think they are 50mg. I’ve also tried Zicam products but I really don’t like the way most of them taste, and even when sick, I dread taking them!

        I’m going to have to try garlic soup next time I feel something coming on.

  8. Came back to tell you I gave you an award today. Yes, it’s for being funneh. No, there is no fancy button to put in your sidebar to show people just how funneh. They already know that about you, though. 🙂

  9. Well, here is another one of my wonderful tricks (I know, I know “Silly Wabbit, Twicks are for kids!”) Here’s the ultimate deal: STOP PROGRAMMING YOURSELF FOR IT!

    Mind over matter – ALL. THE. TIME. Repeat positive things over and over and over like: I’m so strong and healthy. TRUST ME IT WORKS!!! It really really does! That and the sensation of always being tired is not helping. Get some good healthy rest. Then up your dosage of vitamins, the good ones like the whole B family (energy) and take a daily C and what the heck swallow one of those big E (your heart will thank you for it since it’s a natural enemy of cholesterol) AAAAND some Glucosamine (it’s a totally natural type of antibiotic, but rather than killing good and bad bacteria it fortifies your system so it can fight the nasty virus trying to attack you).

    Take it from me, I get sick only once a year! The whole positive mantra thing is a gem. I use it for everything (sure you’ll feel stupid at first but then, if it works who cares?)

    I hope it works for your!!!

    1. I swear by drinking unfiltered german wheat beer the minute I feel like I am getting a cold. The yeast and stuff they leave in it is loaded with B vitamins and other things.

      And at least if you still get a cold, you might be too drunk to notice.

      1. Can you tell my how much vitamin b, c, e and glucosamine you take? I’m going to need a pill box liked granny.
        (I actually look glucosamine/chondroitin for my joints awhile back)
        Oh and I tried mind over matter in February and ended up with bronchitis. Seriously. Wth mind!

  10. We have lucked out this winter and haven’t gotten all the crap that has been going around. We wash hands, but I am not a Purell and wash your hands nazi by any means. We do take vitamins everyday. Tripp has takes his Cars gummy vitamins. I take the Target brand adult gummy multivitamin and the L’il Critters Immune Support gummy vitamins with Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea. Yes, we all take GUMMY vitamins. I don’t have an aversion to pills, but the gummy ones just taste better.

    1. So how do you dose vit c, zinc and echinachea? How much? And pill form?
      I take flinestones vitamins so no need to defend the gummis! I’ve just not been regular about it lately.

  11. I have a horrible immune system and usually, if something’s going around, I get it. but I do manage to avoid constant illness for the most part with vitamins and a decent diet (when I’m not nomming on burgers and doritos). but did you know, once you get sick it’s too late for echinacea. but zinc helps.

  12. I wish I had good advice. I just submitted to the inevitable and realized if someone around me [i.e., a small child] was going to get sick, I was going to get sick.

    The really nice thing, for me, about getting sick when the girl was small was that I took it as license to do absolutely fuck all until I got better. That’s a hard lesson to learn, but so satisfying when you get to it.

  13. My husband always had a stellar immune system until a couple of years ago. Then, someone could sneeze from a county over, and he’d wind up sick. Turns out, he kept getting sick because his immune system was busy warding off an evil, football sized tumor growing in his abdomen.

    But he’s fine now.

    And I’m not saying you have cancer!!!

    I’d go with eat more garlic. That’s always fun.

      1. I didn’t realize how terrible it sounded until after I’d already sent it. LOL. I PROMISE you don’t have cancer!!!

        My family says I have a way with words….

  14. hey! I pick at things too! Eddie HATES when I pick his nose…but it has to be done.

    I also pick the crusties out of my cat’s eyes…duh.


    The only way I stay not sick is because I am a teacher and my body has built up armor against all those fools and their germs.

    and I take a prenatal vitamin because when I was pregnant? I never got sick even once, so I am convinced it was the vitamin.


    1. I had the best hair and nails on my prenatal vitamins and took them forever until I couldn’t take them due to puking my guts out in pregnancy #2.
      Scott has that armor too.

  15. So I have three little carrier monkeys too…and I’ve taken to a strict regime whenever they get sick…it saved me from swine flu last year (when both my boys and husband were down for nearly 2 weeks)….after being cough, puked, sneezed on I still made it out exhausted but healthy. Anyway, a doctor friend sent me a how-to-not-get-sick guide and apparently it works…to some extent anyway. First, I take Ester-C which is like a million mg of Vitamin C but time released over 24 hours. It’s like a horse pill, but easy on the stomach if you take it with food. Hand washing is obvious, but the other big one, especially when one of the monkeys is sick is keeping hands clean but OFF your face. This is something until I paid attention, I was doing a lot without realizing it. The good doctor also said that I should gargle with Listerine several times a day (the idea being if germs were in your throat they wouldn’t be able to proliferate with the alcohol in the mouthwash. I do this when someone else is sick, whenever I’m around sick people and when I feel a sore throat starting. Blow your nose hard several times a day too. This was on the list so I did it, but seems silly. Maybe it’s mind over matter, but this seems to be helping since I started it last year. No one likes being sick, but being a Mom and having NO sick time I would stand on my head and bark like a dog if I thought it would work. So be well- hope you are all healthy soon (and stay that way!)…and now that I’ve rambled about how I’m always healthy, I’m sure I’ll be sick by tomorrow! 😛

  16. I’m redundant with vitamins, Vitamin C, eat healthy, get a little exercise (just a little – let’s not be crazy), and SLEEP WOMAN! Posting at 2 am is not helping your immune system.
    Also, if you don’t already douse your husband in soap and powerwash the doctor office germs off before he walks into the house – you may want to look into that. If that’s a little extreme, have him strip down in the mud room and take a shower when he gets home. That’s what I do when half the school is sick with strep, flu, etc.
    Good luck!

  17. C likes to mouth breathe near my face when she is sick. I just figure I will get something from her.

    I agree with the making the good doctor disrobe upon arrival. When I worked with patients, I ALWAYS stripped as soon as I got home. It really cut down on the funk and colds and nastiness I shared with others.

    I spent this weekend with the stomach mess. C had it last week and shared it with me and my mom. Nothing more fun than a toddler, a preggo mom and lots of bathroom time!

    Feel well soon. 🙂

  18. I am probably way to late to help you here, but I just stumbled on this question about how to keep from getting sick. I work in a public library which is often full of snotty kids and filthy adults. I might get sick once a year. My secret…

    Two things: I wash my hands a lot! And I eat lots of Onion, Garlic, and Hot Sauce (Texas Pete Hot Sauce to be precise).

    I am New England native, who was moved to the south as a teen and moved back across the Mason-Dixon line when I got married 10 years ago. The best thing the South gave me was Texas Pete and an expanded cooking repetoire. (Oh and I musn’t forget this charming southern accent that I seem to be able to use on command as if it were a bicycle.)

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