Originally Written for Magazine Publishing Overview at Emerson College, taught by Benoit Denizet-Lewis. As a class, we produced and published inDIYpendent Magazine. I was co-Editor in Chief.
Think of the last time you were really sick: maybe you were at home — home home, not the disaster you currently live in. You woke up, felt terrible, and magically, your mom or dad, or sister or brother, or grandpa or grandma, or caretaker of whatever type, showed up with everything to make you feel better. This could include the perfect meal, some cold medicine you’ve never seen the bottle to, a freshly clean blanket, or maybe even your pet to keep you company. No matter what goods get delivered to you, they’re sure to make you feel a hell of a lot better.
Now think of how you feel right now. Maybe you’re lying, mummified in a blanket you haven’t washed since you got to college because — wait you can wash blankets? Maybe you haven’t eaten anything but microwave mac and cheese for three days. No matter what it is, you’re no longer living the at-home fantasy where you would pretend to be sick just so you could skip school and get that extra TLC.
So: How do you deal with being sick when you’re by yourself?
1. Decide if you’re sick enough to skip class or call out of work.
I suggest going to class as long as you won’t throw up (cause that shit’s expensive); I suggest calling out of work as soon as you feel bad (especially if you work in the service industry, but also, don’t go broke over a sniffly nose).
2. If you’re staying home, open Postmates, Amazon Prime, GoPuff, or make your roommate go buy everything for you. You need the supplies you wish you already back-stocked.
Buy some food. Hot broths are good for everything — yes, this does mean instant ramen can be some of your sick food. Also, hardy food is good if you can keep it down (Chipotle is my go-to) but plain, bland food (like buttered toast and saltine crackers) is good for nausea if you can’t. Spicy things help stuffy noses, ginger and lemon relieves sore throats. Cream makes both of those worse so try to avoid it, but sometimes you just need ice cream, and I get it. Also buy whatever your favorite vegetables are — as in, ones you’ll actually eat while you feel bad. Your body and immune system will thank you. Healthline has a longer list of good food to eat here.
Buy Advil, DayQuil and/or NyQuil (more on that later), cough drops, hand sanitizer, and a pack of tissues. Buy whatever medicine you remember having at home — my mother was a hippie, so for me, that’s echinacea, zinc, Vitamin C, and some sort of eucalyptus and/or tea tree oil (think: Vaporub but natural).
A good delivery app will have all of this. A good roommate or friend will take your money, shop your list, and decide you’re buying them some candy as repayment.
3. While you wait for that, try to remove yourself from your infected blanket/clothing/sheets/robe (and wash it as soon as you can manage).
In general, reduce the risk of re-infecting yourself with your original virus. This could mean getting a new toothbrush, emptying your trash, doing your dishes, or changing your sheets. It sounds like a lot of work if you feel terrible, but you don’t have to do all of it at once. The more you can keep yourself away from your own ick, the better off you’ll be. This is where the hand sanitizer from above comes in handy. I never understood this when I lived at home, but once I started doing it for myself, I realized how much it helps. On top of just getting you away from your own germs, cleaning and being in a clean environment can really reinvigorate your mental state when you’re sick.
4. Blow your nose as often as you can.
You’ll stay sicker, longer if you just keep sniffing the snot back into your system. Get it out. The tissues you were supposed to buy are your friend here. You could also use toilet paper or a paper towel, but that means you’re using either of those things up faster, and they’re so rough that your nose will be bleeding by the time you’re not sick. Plus, tissues are more portable, if you do have to leave the house.
5. Keep a bucket if you feel like you’ll throw up.
This should be a sturdy, easy-to-clean “bucket,” which you can also line with a trash bag to give yourself even faster clean up. Easy-to-clean is absolutely essential here. Don’t rely on just a bag, which could rip or spill. If you do throw up, the last thing you’re gonna want to do is clean it up off the floor or couch. A mixing bowl, large pot, plastic trash can, or a literal bucket all work well. Keep it near you at all times. Also: let yourself throw up. It feels terrible, I know, but it’s just another way your body expels all the germs it has built up. So getting it out of your system will only help.
6. Once it comes (by whatever means), make your food.
Sometimes eating can feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re sick, but you need to refuel your body if you’re gonna get better. Check out these recipes for the best foods to eat while you’re sick.
7. Take a shower.
It sounds too simple or too good to be true, but a hot shower will make you feel better, almost without fail. Even sticking your feet in a sink filled with hot water, or sitting on the floor and letting the shower steam up the room will help. WebMD says that “showers moisturize your nasal passages,” which can release some of your congestion and make it easier to blow your nose. On top of that, taking a hot shower can help you “sweat out” a fever, relax your muscles (which can get tight or sore when your body is stressed with sickness), and wash some of those germs you’ve been sitting in down the drain.
8. Do things that make you feel better.
This seems obvious, but if all you want to do is sleep or sit on the couch and watch Netflix, you should do that. Your body is telling yourself that you need to rest, and you should listen to it as much as you can. Don’t take this as an excuse to ruin your life and blow everything off, but do listen to your body.
9. Take DayQuil or NyQuil as a very last resort.
It can help clear your sinuses, it can help you sleep, yes, but it’s a temporary thing and can often just delay your health even longer. And that’s not just the hippie mom in me talking: even the Vicks website says that a cold medicine like this exists to treat your symptoms, not actually cure your cold. So take DayQuil if you have to go to work and need to “not be sick,” take NyQuil if there’s absolutely no way you’ll sleep at night without it. But don’t take a shot the second you feel a tickle in your throat and think it’ll shorten your sickness.
10. Keep your sick kit stocked.
Keep those vitamins on hand, some broth in your pantry, hand sanitizer on stand-by, and an extra toothbrush laying around. That way, you won’t have to buy them all at once next time. You’ll thank yourself next time you’re sick and can get to feeling better right away. I know I feel a little extra “adult” any time I already have something I need backstocked.