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Why do I keep getting sick? What should I do?

July 26, 2022 • read

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Why do I keep getting sick? What should I do?

If the cold and flu season has gotten you down, you’re not alone. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians are absent from work an average of 9.5 days a year due to illness. If you find that you’re getting sick over and over again, we’re sharing ten reasons why that may be happening, and what can be done to keep healthy this season. We’re also here to help with convenient 24/7 virtual care, giving convenient access to Canadian-licensed doctors, nurse-practitioners and specialists from anywhere.

1. A compromised immune system

Having a healthy immune system means that your body’s defense mechanisms are ready and able to defend against invading diseases, toxins and microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. A weakened immune system may come with a harder time fighting off these attacks, leading to more missed work, missed social events and being absent from important milestones. And for those with a diagnosed immune deficiency like we can see in pregnancy, chronic diseases like diabetes, or if you have an auto-immune disorder, it can be even tougher to fight cold and flu symptoms. Consider giving your immune system a boost by increasing your intake of garlic, turmeric, citrus and ginger throughout the cold and flu season.

2. An unbalanced diet

Eating a balanced diet can help us fight the flu. To stay healthy, try to eat a wide range of vitamin- and mineral-rich foods (think whole fruits, whole grains and unprocessed lean proteins and veggies) to support your immune response so you’re less vulnerable to cold and flu viruses. Try to stay away from excess sugar, which can impair immune function.

3. Lack of exercise

A consistent exercise routine is great for our overall health. It can help improve immune function, strengthen vital muscles like our hearts and keep us limber and flexible into our later years. Getting exercise doesn’t have to be intimidating, either. Getting 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise is a great start, along with two activities focused on building strength. Keep in mind that exercise, along with ample recovery time is the best approach, as it’s all about balance.

Quote: "To ensure that your body can efficiently transport nutrients to your organs, it's important to make sure you're getting enough water"

4. Dehydration

The adult human body is about 60% water. The liquid component in our blood is composed of water along with salts, sugars, fats, and proteins, and plays an important role supporting our immune system. Not only is water important for shuttling nutrients, blood cells, hormones, and antibodies around our bloodstream, but it also helps us remove waste and regulate our body temperature. To ensure that our bodies can work efficiently, it’s important to make sure we’re getting enough water. Failing to drink enough water can also cause many other adverse symptoms like dry skin (which is your immune system’s first line of defence), fatigue and headaches.

5. Alcohol and tobacco

Excessive alcohol consumption can suppress our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to infections. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, anything above two drinks per week is considered a risk to our health and may potentially compromise the immune response. Smoking also weakens the immune system leaving us vulnerable and unable to defend ourselves against viruses and bacteria.

6. Not enough sleep

There’s a complex relationship between sleep deprivation and the immune system. Studies have shown that people who have poor quality sleep (less than seven to nine hours a night) are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Protect your sleep by establishing a healthy sleep routine with consistent sleep and wake times, and limiting screens at least an hour before hitting the pillow. Sleep therapists can help you and your family establish healthy sleep habits.

7. Kids at home

While adults shouldn’t expect to get more than four colds a year, with young children in the mix, anything is possible. Once they start daycare, kids are on track for six to 12 colds a year since they are notorious for picking their noses, coughing, sneezing and then touching or tasting basically every surface, exposing themselves to new microbes and further spreading infection.

Help them (and your family) stay healthy and teach them proper hand washing hygiene, as well as what’s safe to share with their friends (books, toys) and what could cause the spread of germs.

8. Stress management

When stress becomes chronic, it can cause a surge in cortisol levels. Cortisol hinders the body’s anti-inflammatory response and causes sugar and fat cravings, both adding to the risk of illness. Identify the stress factors in your life and if they aren’t avoidable, try to find new ways to cope with them in order to benefit your immune system and overall health. Try progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or even spending time in nature have all shown to be beneficial in calming the nervous system. Consult a mental health professional through Maple for additional guidance or when self-help isn’t enough.

9. Mismanaged allergies

If you suffer from allergies and they aren’t treated effectively, it can increase your risk for illness caused by viruses and bacteria for example. As a result, allergies can spin into infections including sinus, ear or upper respiratory infections. If you have asthma, the air passages may also be more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. If you feel you need support to better handle of your allergies, connect with one of Maple’s Allergists online.

Quote: "The average person touches their face more than 20 times an hour"

10. Poor hygiene

The average person touches their face more than 20 times an hour, but just because our hands look clean doesn’t mean they are. Practicing good hand hygiene looks like rubbing your hands with soap for about twenty seconds, ten times or more a day during cold and flu season. High important hand washing times are obviously before any food preparations or mealtimes, after using the washroom, and coughing or sneezing. Oral health habits can also affect the immune system, as poor oral hygiene can put an additional strain on our health. Set yourself a timer to make sure to brush at least twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day.

If you find that you keep getting sick every month, it could be a signal that something else is going on, so don’t hesitate to speak with a healthcare professional if you want to learn more. Whether it’s a prescription, a sick note, lab work or medical advice, Maple can help by connecting you with a Canadian-licensed healthcare provider. You can also access specialists such as allergists, naturopathic doctors, sleep therapists or registered dietitians through Maple to understand what lifestyle adjustments are helpful to boost the immune system. We’re here to help with virtual care available 24/7 anytime, anywhere.

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