Dealing with a bug can disrupt your plans. And it can leave you feeling depleted. But when the worst of the stomach discomfort, coughing, fever or congestion is over, you might be anxious to spend time with friends and family again, get back to work or start exercising.
“When it comes to being sick, there are remedies that work and others that don’t," says Susan Werner, MD, a primary care physician at Geisinger Nanticoke. “For most illnesses, a few common tips can help you get back to your normal routine.”
Give it a rest
Want to get better? Rest. That may mean taking time off from work, postponing errands and laying off exercise for a little bit.
Getting enough rest can also prevent illness in the first place — one study showed that people who got less than seven hours of sleep every night were three times more likely to get sick than people who got eight hours or more.
“When you rest, you let your immune system work at maximum capacity,” says Dr. Werner. “It’s important to take it easy both physically and mentally to keep stress levels down. The best thing you can do is make sure you get plenty of sleep. This gives your body the energy it needs to fight off a virus. That means going to bed early, taking naps throughout the day and getting sound sleep without background distractions like the TV.”
It’s best to give your workout regimen a rest, too. The energy you use could weaken your immune system and cause the illness to hang around longer. Once you feel fully recovered and have finished any medication, wait a day or two until you start working out again.
And if you’re thinking about returning to the office, wait until your symptoms are gone. Your co-workers will thank you.
Raise a glass of water to your health. Water, juice, clear broth and warm water with honey and lemon can help keep you from getting dehydrated while you’re sick. They can also help break up congestion, which helps you get rid of excess mucus.
Avoid drinks that dehydrate you like alcohol, coffee and caffeine. Dehydration can strain your immune system and cause thicker mucus, meaning your cold may hang around longer.
If you have a stomach bug, it’s even more important to stay hydrated. The stomach flu and diarrhea can cause dehydration, so it’s important to up your fluid intake. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks with electrolytes to help you recharge and bounce back.
A prescription in a bowl
Turns out, your grandmother was right about chicken soup. Research has shown that it actually can make you feel better by calming inflammation in your body.
Besides chicken soup, it’s best to stick to the BRAT diet — that is, bread, rice, applesauce and toast — while you’re ill. Stay away from dairy, fiber and fatty or spicy foods, too. They can make diarrhea or vomiting linger.
Once you’re feeling better, choose healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to help regain energy and nutrients. Consider eating:
- Fruits, including blueberries, raisins and prunes
- Vegetables like spinach, kale and Brussels sprouts
- Proteins like chicken, eggs, nuts and peanut butter
You can keep ahead of getting sick by following a healthy and balanced diet.
Avoid making things worse
What do cigarettes, allergens and certain “remedies” have in common? They can all make your cold or flu stick around longer.
“Cigarettes and allergens can both cause airway irritation, which can prolong your sickness,” says Dr. Werner. “Cut down on smoking or quit to get over your sickness quicker. If you can avoid contact with allergens, you’ll probably get well sooner, too.”