The perils of spring

I find myself sniffling and coughing today, at the tail end of my second bout of sickness this season. I’ve always been a seasonal allergy sufferer, but for the past few years I prided myself on not getting “actually sick” that often – a cold here and there, but rarely anything particularly debilitating.

But here I am in a new city full of germs, and I’ve already worked through my first round of antibiotics. A month ago, I headed to a doctor’s office ostensibly to get a separate prescription transferred, and asked if he could take a look at my throat, since I’d woken up with some soreness. He had just barely begun approaching me with the tongue depressor when he noticed my swollen tonsils and was like, “WHOA!” and promptly wrote me scrip for some antibiotics. “Don’t you want to take a sample or something?” I asked. “No, that is definitely a bacterial infection, if not strep,” he replied. Okay then.

I got over that and then a week ago developed a raspy voice and a different sort of sore throat. The lack-of-voice lasted for a few days and has now morphed into congestion and coughing. I think I’m on the mend now after a couple days of lying low, sleeping a lot, and drinking a TON of water. Besides actual over-the-counter medicine, those are my prescriptions for getting over a cold like this.

But it’s still frustrating that I actually got sick twice in a row. Why did my awesome immune system abandon me? Gee, Rachel, you had surgery in January and promptly moved across the country, and have been dealing with various personal life stressors ever since then… Well, yeah.

at the Yankees-Mariners game on 4/29, wearing many layers but still shivering

So I decided to poke around the interwebs for some tips on strengthening my immune system, even though my common sense tells me what I need to do for the most part, and I’m pretty sure most articles I would find with a cursory search would be lacking sources, i.e. “drink this green smoothie I’m saying is an ‘immune booster’ for pageviews!” But I did find this Harvard Medical School article about how to boost your immune system which seems pretty legit. It recommends:

  • Committing to a healthy lifestyle: exercise, eat well, don’t smoke, limit alcohol, sleep enough, wash your hands, go to the doctor (this is the common-sense stuff I was referring to)
  • Being skeptical about “immune boosters” or “immunity support” products: there are so many different kinds of immune system cells that we don’t even really know the best method of boosting our system to ward off diseases
  • Eating nutritional food: despite there being few studies about the effects of nutrition on our immune system, it doesn’t hurt to take a multivitamin and eat a diet that provides a variety of micronutrients
  • Reducing stress: the relationship of stress and immune function is not totally known, but it is suggested that psychological stresses disrupt communication between the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system (and that’s enough evidence for me to know that I need to work on my stress level, and in turn, perhaps I won’t get sick as often)

Nothing terribly surprising here, but it still helped encourage me to get on track with healthy habits. I tend to (like many other women, I assume) focus on behaviors such as eating well and exercising as important factors in having a nice looking body and ignoring the effect that those behaviors will have on how my body feels and functions. Which, ultimately, is the most important thing. I know better! And I shouldn’t have to get strep throat to make me remember.


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