Colds and Flu: The Shift Worker's Daily Challenge

As I sit down and type this article tonight, the temperature has changed from being warm and balmy, to somewhat crisp and cool. And as I battle the remnants of a head cold, it’s made me realise just how vulnerable shift workers are to falling victim to the dreaded cold and flu virus.

Really vulnerable.

As shift workers we rely on limited sleep and recovery time so it can be hard to stay healthy and fend off those uninvited nasties including a cold or flu. Our immune system is run down at the best of times so if there is any bug or virus going around – shift workers are usually the first to get knocked down by it.

But as we approach the early stages of winter in the Southern Hemisphere I have to admit, I’m really not a Winter person.

I’ve always been a bit of a warm weather girl. In fact my husband often calls me a lizard as I’m always seeking out a sunny spot to sit and warm up. And even though I feel the cold and know that warm clothes are going to keep me warm, the idea of actually going out to buy warm clothes doesn’t really tickle my fancy because it means that I have to admit that it’s actually winter.

Ahh … sigh. I cannot deny it anymore.

But that’s what I want to talk about right now – the importance of keeping warm to ward off those nasty colds and flu.

You see, the common causes for both common colds and flu that can leave us vulnerable can be exposure to cold air or wind, cold, and seasonal changes from warm weather to cooler weather. The body has to adjust and get used to the drop in weather temperature and this can leave us a bit vulnerable to little bugs that could bring on a cold or flu which can be passed on.

So don’t be like me and try and keep warm in Summer clothes. Make sure that you rug up from top to toe and do more exercise. Yes that’s right – more exercise. Because exercise helps to boost your immune system and also heats your body up to keep you warm.

In fact there are even exercises out there that are really appealing during winter – for example Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga. But just make sure that you rug up afterwards to avoid a chill.

So remember to keep warm during winter because it’s going to go along way into helping you beat the dreaded cold and flu – one of the many challenges associated with having to work shift work.

Do You Rely On Popping Pills And Antibiotics When You Get Sick?

As shift workers we are prone to getting sick. Our immune systems are notorious for being run down, and if we are exposed to any bug that is remotely infectious – bam! We usually fall down in a heap with an almighty thud!

But is there another way to fight off infection instead of having to march off to the doctors to get another prescription for antibiotics?

Definitely. And it starts with eating right and taking better care of yourself.

Now for most people, according to Nutritionist Cyndi O’Meara, author of ‘Changing Habits Changing Lives’ – good health doesn’t require antibiotics and medications. Whenever you fall sick with a small ailment, you need to look at your lifestyle rather than running to your GP for another pill to pop.

You see I’ve never been a fan of popping pills. In fact I’ve actually never been a fan of doctors – period. Nothing personal of course but just getting within a 10km radius of a hospital sends me into cold sweats and nausea, and I would even go so far as ‘diagnosing’ myself as someone who has a phobia of hospitals.

But what certainly amazes me is the number of people who head for the doctors when they get a common cold, only to be prescribed a bottle or two of antibiotics. Because the common cold and other small ailments are just the body’s way of saying – “Stop! Give me a break! Please start to look after my body by eating more fruit and vegies, and give me a chance to fight this bug naturally.”

As shift workers I personally believe that we depend too heavily on drugs to get us well, rather than in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle which has an emphasis on nutrition.

Did you know that there are foods that can boost your immune system, and others that can drain your immunity?

Some fantastic immunity boosters include fresh fruit and vegetables and cooked grains such as rice or barley. Try making yourself a good old-fashioned barley and vegetable soup with lots of garlic because this is one of the best ways to combat a cold. (Now you might want to ensure that you have a bottle of mouth freshener packed in your bag … particularly if you’re on early shift the next day!!)

And on the other hand, immunity draining foods include all processed foods – particularly anything that is packaged in a box or in a bottle. From cereals to breads, as well as fats and all dairy foods.

So when you’re starting to feel a bit unwell, begin by having fruit for breakfast, rice salad for lunch, and barley and vegetable soup for dinner. Plus make sure that you’re drinking plenty of pure fresh water throughout the day. This is really important – you’ve got to help flush out all of those toxins in your body.

And give your body a chance to fight its own battles without having to rely on outside help from antibiotics or other medications.

The old saying – “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”, certainly also applies to your immune system. If you constantly allow antibiotics to fight your infections, then one day your immune system will just pack it in because it will not know what to do.

So start taking responsibility for your own health and if you’re starting to feel a little unwell, then change your diet and stock up on immunity boosting foods! Your body will certainly thank you for it 🙂