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Sick day slip-ups: 5 ways you might be self-sabotaging your recovery when sick

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(BPT) - When an unwelcome sickness or ailment creeps up, your home becomes both a sanctuary and a battlefield in the fight against sickness. Yet, recent research conducted by MDLIVE, an Evernorth company and leading virtual care provider, suggests many U.S. workers may be unknowingly engaging in activities that are hindering their recovery process.

“It's easy to overlook the subtle ways in which our sick day habits can impede our path to wellness, especially when we’re distracted by our daily responsibilities or the physical symptoms of sickness,” notes Dr. Vontrelle Roundtree, Associate Chief Medical Officer at MDLIVE. “However, navigating the road to feeling better when sick at home requires more than just rest; it involves adopting a holistic approach to self-care.”

Dr. Roundtree sheds light on the common missteps many people make during recovery efforts and offers expert advice on avoiding these pitfalls for a quicker and more effective healing process.

1. You take a hygiene hiatus.

According to the survey, more than half of respondents (52%) put their regular hygiene habits on hold, including showering, skin care and even brushing their teeth. However, maintaining personal hygiene is crucial when you're sick, not only to thwart the spread of illness to others and improve mental well-being but also to help prevent additional health problems for yourself. Bacteria thrive and grow when you’re sick, and neglecting oral hygiene, for example, can accelerate bacterial and plaque growth, heightening the risk of dental issues.

2. You bail on a balanced diet.

Whether you avoid certain foods, overindulge with less-than-healthy foods, or simply don’t eat altogether when sick, ignoring nutritional needs can delay your body’s ability to heal promptly. Remember, vitamin C and chicken soup are merely supportive players rather than miracle cures. Instead, boosting your immune system’s response effectively comes from a more balanced approach to nutrition. A diet filled with nutrient-rich foods is the fuel your body needs to fight off illness. Hydration is equally important; drinking plenty of fluids helps flush out toxins and keeps your mucous membranes moist, aiding in the recovery process.

3. You worry over work.

Given the many work obligations and responsibilities, it’s natural to try and power through sickness. However, the stress of working while sick can delay recovery more than most realize. Surprisingly, the mental stress from work can directly impact your physical health by increasing cortisol levels, which in turn can suppress immune function, making you susceptible to longer recovery times or, worse, secondary infections. Taking the necessary time to recover can prevent longer-term health issues and ensure you return to work at full capacity, ultimately supporting a healthier, more productive work environment.

4. You’re all rest, no rally.

While rest is essential, particularly in the initial stages of illness, incorporating light to moderate activities can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. In fact, studies have found that exercise, when experiencing an infection or sickness, may not only be safe but could also reduce the severity of symptoms and the number of sick days needed as a result. Of course, it's essential to listen to your body and consult a doctor to help tailor an appropriate balance between rest and activity for your individual needs.

5. You dodge a doctor’s diagnosis.

When you're feeling under the weather, the last thing you want to do is pull yourself out of the house to a doctor’s office, battling the aches, pains, and fatigue that often accompany illness. In fact, 72% agree that the effort to spend even part of a sick day at the doctor’s office is more of a hassle than it’s worth, likely due to the time commitment and inconvenience it brings. However, consulting a doctor when sick is crucial for faster, proper recovery. Many conditions, particularly common or mild illnesses, can be effectively diagnosed through telehealth appointments from the comfort of your own home. This approach significantly cuts down on the hassle associated with travel and waiting in a doctor's office or urgent care clinic with other sick people. Telehealth can serve as a convenient option for getting the care you need, with doctors recommending in-person follow-ups when necessary.

In the fight against sickness, knowledge and action are your greatest allies. The journey back to health is not just about overcoming the immediate symptoms but nurturing your overall well-being so that your days spent under the weather are as few and far between as possible.