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July 2, 2020 • read
Why do I keep getting sick?
Canadians take about eight days off work each year because of illness or disability, so clearly most of us get sick at least once a year. But if you find that you’re getting sick over and over, it’s probably more than just bad luck. Here are some of the most common answers to the question “why do I keep getting sick?”
Your immune system is compromised
Having an immune system disorder means that your immune system is less able to fight off bacterial and viral infections. Individuals with immune system disorders get sick more often and for longer than those without them. It’s possible to be born with an immune system disorder, but you can also acquire one later in life (like with HIV/AIDS). Getting sick more often than normal is often one of the signs that clues people into realizing that they have one.
And while it’s not an immune system disorder, being worn down can also make you more likely to get sick. Being constantly on-the-go, puts your immune system into a state of stress. Chronic stress, poor diet and lack of sleep make you less able to fend off infection. If you’re not making time for R and R, you’re probably going to keep getting sick. Your immune system can’t take care of you if you don’t take care of it.
You didn’t fully recover from your last illness
If you push yourself too hard before you’ve had a chance to fully recuperate, you’re liable to get sick again, which is why it sometimes seems like you have cold after cold after cold. And you might need longer than you think to get better — especially as you get older. That’s why it’s best to ease yourself back into things gradually when you’re coming off an illness and to follow your doctor’s advice. If you’re prescribed antibiotics, for example, it’s crucial that you finish the entire course, even if you start to feel better. Otherwise, you might not clear the infection completely, making you vulnerable to a resurgence (and antibiotic-resistant bacteria).
Your lifestyle is impacting your health
Over time, regular exercise is good for your health — it’s one of the factors that helps you to boost your immune system. But some research also suggests that a particularly strenuous workout can actually make you more vulnerable to getting sick for a period of time. If you’re constantly pushing beyond your limits in the gym, you could be making yourself more susceptible to illness. But take this one with a grain of salt. Because on balance, an occasional bout of strenuous exercise is better than not exercising at all, especially if it means the difference between being a healthy weight or overweight or obese. We don’t exactly know why, but being overweight diminishes immune function and makes you more susceptible to infections.
Maybe the most important contribution you can make to improving immune function is to not smoke. Numerous studies show that smokers are sick more often than non-smokers, and that they also get more sick than individuals who are not exposed to cigarette smoke. We don’t yet know the precise effects of vaping vs. smoking — mainly because vaping hasn’t been around long enough for extensive study — but health officials are clear that vaping also has negative health consequences.
You have kids
While adults shouldn’t expect to get more than two to four colds a year, this goes out the window if you have young children. That’s because once kids start daycare, they’re on track for six to 12 colds a year. Little kids are notorious for picking their noses, coughing, sneezing and then touching basically every surface ever, so it’s not all that surprising. And if you’re bringing one of these little germ collectors home and snuggling with them, you’ll likely find yourself getting sick more often too. Luckily, this starts to ease up as their immune systems gain exposure to different viruses and their personal hygiene improves. You can also help to guard against this by teaching your child good hand, sneeze, and cough hygiene from an early age. Which brings us to our next point.
You don’t have good hygiene
Just because your hands look clean doesn’t mean they are. If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything it’s that washing your hands is one of the best ways of keeping yourself from getting sick. The average person touches their face more than 20 times an hour — often without even realizing it. And each time they do, it’s an opportunity for whatever germs are on your hands to enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth. If you’re not washing your hands after using the washroom, before eating and as soon as you arrive home from work (or school or wherever else you happen to go), you’re providing an opportunity for germs to spread. The science in this case is simple: up your hand-washing game to boost your health.
There are a few reasons why you might be continuously sick. It could be as easy to solve as washing your hands more often or just a matter of waiting for your toddler to grow up a little. Take some time to examine your lifestyle for clues, but if you find that you’re constantly getting sick and there’s no reason you can suss out, speak with a doctor. It could also be a signal that something else is going on with your body.