Are you the sick person of your group of friends? If so, then you know how annoying it is to constantly be the one catching every damn germ that goes around. If there's a stomach virus, you get it. And if there's a national flu, it takes you out before it even makes the evening news.
It sucks to be the sick girl. Especially when you take really good care of yourself — which I'm sure you do. When sickness is your MO, you become the queen of hand sanitizer, and the president of the vitamin aisle. And yet when your greatest health measures don't seem to work, it can leave you feeling totally confused.
Sometimes in life, we can pinpoint the exact moment when a germ came our way. A rude coworker sneezed in your face, or the guy on the subway was coughing up his lung. When that happens, you're pretty much guaranteed to feel sniffly and rundown the following day. But what happens when the constant illnesses that seem to have no source? Despite all the vitamins and hand sanitizer, you still seem to be struck down.
When that's the case, it's important to take a look at all your lifestyle habits to see which one may be root of the problem. Because, short of having an underlying health problem, you really shouldn't be getting sick all the time.
Take a look at this list, and see if any of these germ-ridden habits rings a bell.
1. Your Phone Is A Germ-Ridden Sickness Machine
Your phone goes everywhere with you, and you touch it all day long without a second thought. But think about how often you set it down on the public bathroom counter, and then bring it right out to lunch. Or how many times you pass it around to friends, despite one of you being sick. Gross, right?
With the way we treat our little technology companions, it's really no wonder they are totally germ-infested. According to Kristina Brooks on HealthCentral.com, "Cell phones can carry as many germs or more than a bathroom door handle or toilet seat. Just one phone, in fact, can harbor thousands of colonies of germs and bacteria. One of the most common bacteria colonies is coliform, which indicates fecal contamination." This can lead to the flu, pinkeye, and even diarrhea. So do yourself a favor and get rid of those nasties with an alcohol-based cleaner. Oh, and stop bringing your phone into the bathroom.
2. That Toothbrush Of Yours Has Seen Better Days
There's a myth floating around that you should change your toothbrush after you've been sick, or else risk infecting yourself all over again. But that's not necessarily how it works — at least not with viruses like the common cold. As Julia Felsenthal noted on Slate.com, "Once you've been infected with a particular strain of a virus, you develop antibodies that make the likelihood of re-infection very low. Even if the virus were still hanging out on your toothbrush after you recovered — colds and flus can survive there in an infective state for anywhere from a few hours to three days — those antibodies should keep you from contracting the same illness twice."
So don't worry about that cold you had last week, but do worry about any bacterial infections, such as strep throat. "If you were afflicted with strep throat, for example, a colony of streptococcal bacteria might end up on your toothbrush and remain there long enough to give you a second case after you'd taken a course of penicillin," said Felsenthal.
I say, it's better to be safe than sorry. Toss out your old toothbrush after you've been sick, or at least get a new one every three to four months once the bristles get worn.
3. Your Hand Sanitizer Is Doing More Harm Than Good
We all know the girl with the multiple scented hand sanitizers in her purse. You know, the one who drenches her hands after touching anything and everything? If that sounds familiar, you might be surprised to find out that antibacterial gels can actually do more harm than good.
According to Susan Evans, MD, on DoctorOz.com, "... if we over wash our hands and continually strip them of all germs, we will be negatively impacting our immune system, which actually uses germs to build its own strength. Did you ever wonder why the kid that never played in the dirt seemed to get sick most often? ... Your body needs to learn how to fight those intruders." Find a happy medium between eating your lunch with germ-ridden fingers, and coating yourself from head to toe with sanitizer.
4. That Nail Biting Habit Has Gotten Out Of Hand
You wouldn't dream of touching your food with dirty hands, and yet I'm sure you sit around all day gnawing on your nails. It's gross, and a really good way to accidentally introduce a bunch of germs into your body. As Amanda L. Chan noted for the Huffington Post, "... biting your nails can raise the risk of catching a cold or other illness because you're putting your unwashed hands in your mouth." So keep your digits out of your mouth, and you'll be less likely to come down with a cold.
5. The Air In Your House Is Gross And Stale
As if we needed more things to worry about, how's this for a fun fact: The air inside our homes, offices, and other buildings can be more polluted than the air outside. (Yikes.) That's because we track in all sort of gross dirt and germs, use powerful cleaners, and then lock ourselves inside with stagnant, caustic air.
As Jeanie Lercher Davis noted on WebMD.com, "The air inside your home may be polluted by lead (in house dust), formaldehyde, fire-retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners. Some pollutants are tracked into the home. Some arrive via a new mattress or furniture, carpet cleaners, or a coat of paint on the walls." Then once you add in dust mites, as well as mold and pet dander, it's really enough to make anyone sick.
To keep your place as clean as possible, be sure to take off your shoes when you get home, vacuum a lot, and air out your rooms by opening up the windows, suggested Davis.
6. You're Dehydrated AF
We all know that it's important to eat healthy foods to stay well, but rarely do we think about dehydration making us sick. And yet water plays a huge role in keeping illnesses away. As Kimberly Holland and Valencia Higuera noted on Healthline.com, "Every tissue and organ within the body depends on water. It helps carry nutrients and minerals to cells, and keeps your mouth, nose, and throat moist — important for avoiding illness ... Mild to moderate dehydration is sometimes difficult to identify, but it can make you sick." Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, headache, and constipation. So if you're feeling any of those, be sure to drink more water before it turns into something more serious.
Some of us have resigned ourselves to being "the sick girl," but it doesn't have to be that way. Take a look at your lifestyle, and see if any of these sneaky things are making you sick.