The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta.
Germs love me. I used to be a great host of bacteria and viruses and allergens. I would take pride in the fact that my body was hospitable for microscopic organisms. In fact my body was so smart, I only ever got sick over vacation. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Never on actual work days. One day, I’d had enough. No more illness. No more nose rubbed raw. No more broken blood vessels in my eyes from coughing. I’ve started researching strategies for avoiding getting sick or reducing my sick time.
- Wash your hands. You think you wash your hands properly because you are an adult, but you probably don’t. Wash under water by rapidly rubbing your hands together. Clean under your nails. Sing your ABC’s. Sing the Bohemian Rhapsody.
- Keep your hands away from your face and head. If dirty fingers touch your mouth or eyes, the germs have a fast track into your system.
- Shower at the end of the day. Bathe your kids every single night. I’m not sure why this isn’t already a thing, but kids in daycare crawl on the floor all day. Kids in elementary school are around other kids all day. Kids in middle school really don’t want to shower, but make them do it anyway. A morning shower means you’ve slept in yesterday’s cooties all night. Yum. Your bed is an incubator of germs.
- Get lots of sleep. Just go to sleep right now. Losing sleep means your body is too tired to fight of any illnesses going around.
- Avoid touching handles, door knobs, shopping carts. I wear long sleeves and used them as a barrier between me and objects I have to touch during flu season.
- Wipe your desk and keyboard. Wipe down your airplane arm rests and trays. Wipe down your gym equipment before and after. Don’t worry if people think you have OCD. There is nothing wrong with having OCD. There is nothing wrong with having flu season OCD.
- Get your vaccines. Put it on your calendar. Depending on your age and health different vaccines are available for flu and pneumonia and other fun illnesses like chicken pox and measles.
I have four kids, so I don’t have time to be sick. I can’t afford to have sick family members. But it happens. The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is to take immediate action if you feel sick. There is always a breath that you take that feels weird. The back of your throat feels cold as the air comes in. You detect a headache or body ache, but think you can push through it. You are tired, but you don’t sleep. Don’t do this. Do not wait.
- Take immediate action if you begin to feel sick.
- Read the ingredients of over-the-counter medicine. If you aren’t coughing, you don’t need the medicine with a cough suppressant and expectorant. Taking too much medicine isn’t really helpful. All the cold and flu brands repackage the exact same medicine under 20 different names and 20 different price points. Learn to be an educated consumer of your medicines.
- Have a relationship with a primary care provider. This is your Internist, General Practitioner, and Pediatrician. It helps if they know you so they know you when you are sick. The Emergency Room is a pretty terrible way to waste 12 hours and a pretty great way to get new and unusual viruses.
- Stay home from school if you suspect you are sick. Stay away from school until you are better for a full day. That’s 24 hours. Going to school with the flu is like sending your kid to school with a peanut butter sandwich knowing every other kid is allergic peanut butter. Don’t do this.
- Stay home from work if you suspect you are sick (if you can). Stay away from work until you are better for a full day. Sounds like I just said this about school. I did. Going to work with your phlegmy cough and fever is dangerous and selfish. You don’t know who in your office has a compromised immune system. Assume we all do.
- If you take prescription meds, take them the right way. Take every pill. Drink every drop of the medicine as prescribed.
- Know the side effects of your meds.
Inevitably we have done all the right things, but we are still caught by the bug. I have some secret strategies to get better faster and keep future illnesses at bay.
- Brush your teeth a few extra times a day. Brush the heck out of your tongue. Floss. Trust me on this one.
- Gargle with real Listerine. The yellow one that looks like a cross between apple juice and pine sol.
- Take a hot bath with a few cups of cheap white rum mixed into the water. Do not drink the bath water.
- Take a bath with Epsom salt or apple cider vinegar or both. Only take a bath if you think you are strong enough and it is safe. Otherwise ask a friend to sit next to the tub to make sure you are okay.
- Take a hot shower and use a wash cloth to scrub off the dead skin and germs. Enjoy the steam to help you breathe. Try to do this as often as you can.
- Learn how to use a Neti pot or sinus rinse device. The water must be purified or distilled water. You should not use tap water or spring water for the nasal cleansing. Yes, I want you to clean your nose from the inside.
- Whenever you blow your nose, wash your hands.
- When your hands and nose get rubbed raw, use coconut oil to soothe skin and promote healing.
Drink a tonic. A tonic is a beverage designed to promote the body’s natural healing process. Nyquil only targets symptoms. If you are brave, you can be on the road to recovery if you try one of these home remedies.
- Chicken soup is the real deal. If you don’t eat meat, try a vegetable broth. Spice either variation with turmeric, cayenne pepper, and black peppercorns.
- Tonic 1: Vinegar (1 oz), honey (1 tsp), warm water (7 oz). When you get used to the taste of vinegar, you can add more. Be careful with vinegar. It can strip the enamel off your teeth. Drink with a straw. Rinse your mouth with plain water after you have any beverage with vinegar.
- Tonic 2: Cayenne Pepper (1/4 tsp), honey (1 tsp), lemon (1/4 of whole lemon), warm water 7 oz.
- Water with a tiny pinch of salt or some lemon. Stay hydrated at all times. Coconut water is good if you can’t stomach water while you are sick.
Drink tonics 1 and 2 as often as you can as soon as you feel the first symptoms of cold or flu. A variation for both is with cold water. It still works. Depends on what you are in the mood for. The advice listed above is not a substitute for medical advice. Doctors are our friends. Nurses save our lives. We can help them by being proactive with our health especially since this flu season has been expensive and deadly. Take care of yourself. Check on your neighbors. Tell them the Flu Guru sent you!
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. The Zero Mile column appears on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.