How to Recover From Being Sick as Quickly as Possible


I’m no doctor, but prior to going (mostly) gluten-free, I was a certifiable hypochondriac, which I presume entitles me to give unsolicited health advice to my friends every once in awhile. Having spent five years in a constant state of anxiety about my well-being resulted in me having somewhat of a heightened sense of awareness about my health most of the time, which means when I actually am sick, I catch it early — which does often result in my recovering more quickly. I hate doctors, and I hate taking prescription medication unless I really have to, so this is my approach to recovering as fast as I possibly can with or without either one of those two things.

1. Know when you are getting sick. Once you’re 25 or 30 years old, you should have a pretty good idea of which symptoms mean you’re getting sick (and which ones just mean you’re tired or stressed). For me, I start to feel light-headed, mildly achy, sometimes my throat gets scratchy, and my ears start to click or feel congested. That’s a sure sign I’m coming down with something.

2. As soon as you know you are getting sick, start acting like a sick person. If you are at work, leave. If you are at a party, leave. If you are at the mall, leave. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not eat McDonald’s, and do not drink any more alcohol. I started to feel somewhat crappy on Friday night two hours into a party. I could have stayed, but instead I made my apologies, said my goodbyes, and promptly took myself home. I know that two hours spent partying might mean an extra two days sick for me.

3. Get in bed, and stay there. Don’t clean. Don’t do laundry. Stay in your bed. Force yourself to sleep as much as possible. Drink some water. Take a vitamin and some NyQuil if you have to, but sleep, sleep, sleep. In my opposite-of-expert medical opinion, I’m pretty sure your immune system functions better if you are (a) laying down and (b) not doing anything to distract it. You can get out of bed for three things: food/water, a bath/shower, a short walk outdoors. If you are not sleeping, read a book, watch a movie, or try to bore yourself into going back to sleep.

4. Drink/eat plenty of fluids. These include water, juice, soup, and/or tea. I don’t know about Gatorade. Somehow drinking sugary sports drinks while you are laying in bed seems counterintuitive to me, but whatever makes you feel better. If you’re feeling up to it, get some protein, carbs and veggies in you, too. You can get up if you have to, but it’s better to con someone else to come over and bring these items to you. (Extra points if they take care of your pets while they’re at it.)

5. Keep your favorite over-the-counter drugs on hand. Mine include Advil, Zyrtec D, NyQuil, DayQuil, Airborne and the occasional cough drop. I’d rather mess with these than go to the doctor and get a prescription any day of the week.

6. If after 24-48 hours of this behavior you are getting worse, go to the doctor. As much as I hate the doctor, I know that within two days of resting, I’m usually feeling much better, if not 100% back to normal. So if that doesn’t happen, I don’t procrastinate. I go straight to the doctor, tell her what’s up, and try to get her to prescribe a medication I know I’ve taken in the past for something similar that worked. Then I go back home and repeat steps 1 through 4 until I feel better.

And that’s it. Don’t go back to work or anywhere else until you feel better and/or until you’re not going to get everyone else sick!

Thanks to this approach, I’ve avoided the doctor for many things (other than the shingles) over the last several years, and I’ve probably saved myself three sick days for every one I took as soon as I started to feel bad.

Then again, just because this works for me doesn’t mean it’s perfect for everyone. What do you think? Do you do anything special that I should add to the list?

P.S. That picture is from 2009. I am not currently reading Twilight. I am reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. =)

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Nicole says:

    Friend, I’m sorry you don’t feel well. I hope Diesel and the kitties are taking good care of you. I, too, always know when I’m coming down with something. My neck and throat start to swell, ears feel full, sinuses are often congested, and I loose my sense of taste and smell. Before I got pregnant, I’d wait 24-48 hours by self-medicating and resting, thinking perhaps my woes were allergy-related, but now I have to see the doctor immediately. At seven months pregnant, my allergies were AWFUL and after a week of suffering, perhaps making myself worse, Doc eventually wrote me a Rx for a Z-pack (strong antibiotics) and I was better within 24 hours. I hate being sick, I’m such a wuss!!!!! Big HUGS for you and hope you feel better FAST. =)

  • Stephen D. says:

    I try not to eat any protein because i’m convinced that’s what viruses and bacteria eat and in MY opposite-of-expert medical opinion, if you eat protein you’re just making the bad stuff stronger.

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