23 April 2012

5 stupid things you do when you’re sick

Avoid these common mistakes when illness strikes.


Ignore the symptoms until you collapse

Who you, sick? Never. Just because your voice is so hoarse you sound like Darth Vader and your skin is clammy and hot doesn’t mean you’re sick. Not at all. And nor do you need any help, although if everyone would just stop talking so loudly and the room would stop spinning...

If there are medals being given out for ignoring symptoms, you’re going to win one. But you are also pushing your body when it is crying out for a little rest and tender care.

It’s especially important not to ignore chronic symptoms that just do not improve over a period of time. That odd lump, that tummy pain and that nagging cough may seem like old friends by now, but they are your body’s way of telling you that something is not quite right.

Finding out what the cause of a symptom is can be scary, especially if it means an operation or other intervention is required. You’ll feel better knowing, though, and even better if that nagging symptom can be treated.

Do strenuous exercise

You’re devoted to your exercise regime, and you’ve got the rock-hard abs and buns of steel to prove it. If 6pm comes and you haven’t hit the gym you start to feel anxious.

Getting some fresh air and moving around a little when you’re a bit sniffley is one thing, but if you have a temperatue or feel a fluey ache in your body, you simply have to give the heavy exercise a miss.

“It's true, exercising when ill can cause some very serious consequences, even death, and the reason is that it's always wise to err on the side of caution,” explains Ross Tucker, aka Health24’s FitnessDoc.

“If your symptoms are below the neck - sore joints, aching muscles, general fatigue, chest hurting, then under no circumstances should you exercise at all. It could be very, very risky, and it's not worth that. So in that case, stay in and spend your energy fighting off the flu.”

Even once you feel fine, don’t go back immediately to pushing yourself to the limit. Gradually increase your training until you are back to 100%. If you have any doubts at all, get medical advice.

Become a cyberchondriac

You are sick, that much is true. Nausea and vomiting kept you awake all night. But what a pity you spent so much of that time trawling the internet for ever more dreadful diseases. It won’t improve your sleep at all if you convince yourself that the abdominal swelling you’re experiencing is a hernia, when it’s much more likely to be gas.


We do recommend that you find out as much as possible about whatever condition you are experiencing, but always remember that every case is unique, and nothing replaces a flesh-and-blood medical practitioner when it comes to diagnosis of what ails you.

There’s no harm in using Dr Google as an information source, provided you make sure that the website you are visiting is providing credible, medically sound information. Beware of websites that promote anything as the cure-all for everything, and those that claim your disease is caused by alien abduction.


Of course there are some minor ailments you are familiar with and can confidently choose a remedy for. If you know you over-indulged last night, treating your headache with a simple painkiller makes sense. But when it comes to symptoms you aren’t as familiar with, self-medicating can be problematic.

Your brother had a rash last year, and there’s still some of the cream left over. That’ll probably work for your itchy outbreak, right?

Not right. You and your brother could have completely different problems that require different treatments. Your chicken pox blisters will not benefit from a course of anti-fungal cream. And even if you do have the same problem, the medication could have expired, or you could have an allergy or sensitivity that makes it unsuitable for you.

Just because medication is available over the counter at the pharmacy doesn’t mean it is harmless, so rather check with the pharmacist whether it is appropriate for you to take a specific medication for your symptoms.

Go to work

You’ve managed to drag yourself out of bed and into the shower, and after sitting down a bit you got into your day clothes. But that doesn’t mean you are ready to go to work. If you feel like crying at the thought of getting on the bus, consider taking a sick day to rest and recuperate. The business is unlikely to go down the drain just because you are not there for once.

Remember that your boss and colleagues expect a certain level of performance from you, and if you’re fighting a migraine or doped up on sinus medication, you might not be at your skilful peak.

It’s also unfair to your colleagues to drag your sick body into the workplace and then spread a cold or something worse among the staff. You won’t be popular if you start a swine flu epidemic in the office because you couldn’t admit you were too sick to work.

(Adele Hamilton, Health24, April 2012)

(Picture: Sick businessman from Shutterstock)



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