Who Gets Sick?
When Dr. Sheldon Cohen and his team at
Carnegie Mellon University studied which
participants became sick after having a cold
or flu virus squirted in their noses and then
isolating them in a hotel room (I know, you’re
thinking, “How can I get a spot in that study?!”),
they found that the people who did NOT get
sick had several things in common.
The healthy subjects had experienced less stress,
had better sleep habits, typically experienced
more positive emotion, were more sociable,
and had more diverse social networks.
Another study found that women who walked
five days a week for 35-45 minutes experienced
half the number of days with cold symptoms as
a control group that did not exercise.
Immune System Strength
The strength of your immune system is what
helps to determine whether you are going to
get a cold after exposure to a cold virus.
And there are several things that can affect the
strength of your immune system: how old you
are, whether you smoke cigarettes, how much
regular sleep you get, the quality of nutrition
you receive, and your level of mental stress.
Some Healthy DOs and DON’Ts:
Here are some things you should and should not do
to decrease your chances of becoming sick if you
are exposed to cold and flu viruses (and unless
you live under a rock, you’re going to be!) :
1. DO eat a well-balanced diet every day.
Good nutrition is your #1 weapon of defense for
maintaining a healthy immune system.
If you are trying to lose weight, do it gradually,
as immune function is suppressed during periods
of low caloric intake and quick weight loss.
2. DON’T skimp on sleep.
While there is no “magic number,” most people
need 7-8 hours of sleep each night in order to
have optimal immune system functioning.
Let other things go, but not your rest.
3. Manage your stress in healthy ways.
You can’t always control how much stress you
have to deal with, but you have control over how
you deal with it. Take time each week to relax
completely, learn cognitive techniques for
managing stress and anxiety, increase
opportunities to experience joy, peace, and
happiness each week, exercise regularly,
and spend time with people that you like.
Reasons to Hope for Health
The fact that not every person exposed to a
virus gets sick, and that people who live
healthier lifestyles and manage their stress
consistently are able to decrease their
chances of becoming sick should give you
hope that you can do a lot to avoid getting
sick this cold and flu season. Exposure to
a virus alone is not enough to get you sick!
That’s wonderful news for all of us.