How to Not Get Sick

Have you been sick recently? I know that my family is just coming out of a persistent and lingering head cold that turned into a fever, lot of coughing, and a double ear infection for my daughter. I also heard that folks around campus were talking about the #uncplague. Yep, it is that time of year again: Cold and Flu season, which warrants the annual reminder about what to do to not get sick.

And I have a few suggestions:

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

Wash your hands (and stop touching your face).

Illness is often spread by people getting the a virus on their hands from touching someone or something that a sick person has coughed on, sneezed on, or touched, and then touching their face. You may remember from the movie Contagion that people touch their face 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. This might be a bit of an overestimate, but in a recent study, random people touched their face 3.6 times an hour and with the same hand also touched common objects that others had touched. So wash your hands and stop touching your face so much.

When should you wash ’em?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After riding on public transportation
  • After using the toilet
  • After using shared gym equipment
  • After handling money
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching or taking out garbage
  • After any other potentially gross things you do that I couldn’t think of


We get that it’s difficult – but sleep is critical to keep your body functioning. Getting good sleep is about developing good habits, or “Sleep Hygiene.” Harvard Medical School has a Division of Sleep Medicine website which we highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about sleep. They have listed 12 tips for improving sleep which are amazingRead them nowSeriously.


Stop and take a sip anytime you pass a water fountain. Carry a water bottle with you to hydrate throughout the day. Drink a glass of water as the first thing you do when you wake up (on second thought: first pee, then drink the water). Drink at least a glass of water with each meal. There are loads of tricks like these to ensure you stay hydrated. Incorporate at least one into your life.


When you are really sick, stay home.

Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, and tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly; there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through a sickness, but we need to change this norm. I am not saying take advantage of a sickness. If you have a sniffle or a tickle in your throat I might not advise that you lay in bed all day, but if you truly are sick, you are protecting others by staying home. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

Get a flu shot

According to the CDC the number of deaths due to the flu has ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 per year in the United States in recent years.

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Get a flu shot. You do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Let me say that again: you do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Some people do get a low-grade fever and headache from the vaccine, but this is just the body reacting to the foreign substance, not the Flu. According to the CDC, vaccines given to children have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decade. There is also absolutely no evidence that the Flu vaccine –or any other vaccines– present significant harm, and the idea that vaccines cause autism is a complete myth. The worst that could happen is that the Flu shot does not provide protection for the strain of the Flu that is being passed around but, even in that case, there is nothing lost by getting the shot. Most people who work in public health will agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect not only the individual getting the shot, but others around them.

So each flu season, get yourself that flu shot. The vaccine usually becomes available around October and remains an option for you through at least January.


Do what you can to stay well, friends. And when you get sick, check out Campus Health’s cold-care guide or make an appointment.


This post was originally published on October 14, 2014 by Jedadiah Wood. It was updated and reposted February 19, 2016.

Workout Wednesday: 7 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick at the Gym

This weekend, I laid in bed as much as possible while I dealt with a lovely bout of the flu. While I’m pretty sure I picked up the virus from my sister, I naturally started thinking about all of the public places that we share as students at a large university.

One of the first things places that came to mind was the gym. It’s one of the places where everyone wears less clothing than usual, has more body contact with shared equipment than usual, and sometimes people have more body contact with each other than usual, depending on the sport.

Because the flu and all sorts of other cold viruses are running rampant this season, I looked up several suggestions about how to avoid getting sick at the gym!

  1. 51283190_d2d115fef4_m
    “Sink” by Kristen Andrus, Flickr Creative Commons

    Wash your hands! This one might seem obvious, but if you’re going to the gym between classes, it might slip your mind to wash your hands between working out and eating lunch! Make an effort to go wash your hands with warm water and soap as soon as you finish your workout or leave the gym.

  2. Wipe down equipment before AND after use. Think about how many hands and bodies have touched the elliptical dashboard, the handles of your stationary bike, or your yoga mat that very day! Use the disinfecting wipes provided in the SRC and Ram’s Head Rec to wipe down your equipment before you use it to avoid contact with other people’s germs! Do the person after you a favor by wiping your equipment down again after you finish using it to avoid the spread of any germs you may be carrying.
  3. Avoid contact sports during the peak of flu season or if you know several of your teammates have been sick. It can be hard to stay away from your favorite sport, but if your teammates and friends are dropping like flies to various sicknesses, it might be best to take a break until everyone starts feeling better. Contact sports cause players to share a lot of sweat and germs in general, so consider that possibility before you choose to participate.
  4. Take a shower as soon as you finish working out. Many workouts involve laying on mats or the floor, so washing your hands probably isn’t enough to de-germ completely. Showering washes away all of that cringe-worthy shared sweat and reduces your risk of infection.
  5. Cover any open wounds. Sometimes we only think about keeping our hands away from our mouths as a way to avoid introducing contagious infections into our bodies. However, many gym-goers may have an open scrape or cut, an open blister, or even a raw hangnail that creates an additional opening for infection to enter. Cover up your open wounds with Band-Aids, or even gauze and athletic tape to avoid rubbing them against equipment and other surfaces.
  6. Be very conscious about not touching your face while at the gym. Chances are, your mom has been telling you to keep your hands out of your mouth since you were a toddler. If you’re a nail-biter or otherwise inclined to put your hands near your face out of habit, it’s good to consciously remind yourself to keep your hands away from your face and mouth until you’ve had a chance to wash your hands after your workout.
  7. Avoid the gym completely if you’re feeling under the weather. Not only can you spread your germs to all sorts of pieces of equipment and make others sick, working out while you’re sick compromises your immune system’s ability to fight infection, so you may be extending your sick time. If you’re feeling bad, it’s best to stay home and rest until you feel better!

With these simple tips, you’ll reduce your chance of picking up an infection such as the flu or a cold while at the gym. Overall, the health benefits of exercise outweigh the risks of getting sick from something you picked up at the gym, but it’s best to be careful wherever you are so that you can do your best to avoid getting sick and keep yourself healthy year round!


Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on



Patel, Arti. How to Avoid The Cold and Flu At The Gym. The Huffington Post Canada. 06 October, 2014.

Wooldridge, Leslie Quander. Don’t Get Sick at the Gym: 7 Ways to Prevent Infection. U.S. News & World Report. 12 April, 2012.