New York Fashion Week kicks off this week, and while we're excited to see some fall fashion, we're not really that thrilled about running all over the city air kissing people during flu season. Combine that with industrial elevators packed with editors, too much drinking and not enough sleep and your risk of getting sick has now increased exponentially.
People often use a lot of voodoo to prevent illness. Some swear by certain rituals or supplements to keep them healthy, but what really works? While you may just be one stomach flu away from your goal weight, you definitely don't want that stomach flu during fashion week. And the rest of us who are packed on that elevator with you don't want it either. So here's what you should do to avoid getting sick these last few weeks of the winter, whether you're sitting front row at fashion week or sitting in your cubicle glued to Style.com.
Get a Flu Vaccine: According to Dr. Seth D. Feltheimer, an internist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, flu season runs until the end of March, so a flu shot can still be valuable. "It's not too late. You're get some protection in about a week," he said. "The only reason not to get a flu vaccine is if you're immune suppressed, or very sick." While the flu vaccine cannot protect against every strain of flu out there, it's still worth getting. And no, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine - the vaccine does not contain live virus. The proteins in the vaccine stimulate your immune system to produce antibodies against the flu in case the real thing comes your way.
Stay Home: We know you have a week's worth of cute outfits picked out, but if you're starting to feel crappy, just stay home. "If you're starting to get some fever, some cough, a bad sore throat, or you feel exhausted in spite of getting sleep - these are all signs of the starting of flu," Dr. Feltheimer said. "If you're having diarrhea, don't come. It could be a sign of norovirus." Norovirus is the bug responsible for the recent outbreaks on two Caribbean cruise ships. It is exceptionally contagious.
Carry Hand Sanitizer Everywhere: Dr. Feltheimer advocates carrying Purell with you everywhere. (Or if you want something more fashionable, try Renouve, a gorgeous, natural hand sanitizer that also contains anti-aging ingredients.) "Both flu and norovirus pass through respiratory droplets that you inhale, and if you put your hands on things that are dirty," he said. "Viruses can live on surfaces for a few days. If you put your hands near your mouth after you touch something, you can get sick that way." He also recommends carrying around Clorox wipes to wipe off surfaces, like hotel rooms and those disgusting Lincoln Center bathrooms, that may be of questionable cleanliness.
Be a Little Anti-Social: Double bisous are a standard at fashion week, but maybe opt for only an air kiss without actual face contact, or even just a big friendly smile. "I would really do air kissing and avoid contact if possible," Dr. Feltheimer recommended. "The same is true with handshaking. Then wash your hands with soap and water before you eat!"
Supplements: Don't waste your money on supplements or so-called "natural" cures or preventatives. "I would love to say they work, but nothing has been shown to work. It would be good for my practice, too!" Dr. Feltheimer said. Vitamin C (which is in supplements like Emergen-C) isn't effective for preventing illness and Dr. Feltheimer said most people take too much, which can cause side effects like cramping and diarrhea. There isn't strong evidence that echinacea works, either. Ditto the hot new supplement, turmeric, which has been popping up in shots at juice bars. "It's come up in the past few years. It doesn't work. It's ridiculous," he said. "I went over it with a fine tooth comb because people started asking me about it last year. There's no evidence at all that it helps." However, there have been studies to support the use of zinc (which is found in Cold-Eeze) for cutting the duration of a cold, though results may be subtle. He also recommends a daily multivitamin.
Try a Pot: If you're interested in natural, non-medical ways to prevent illness, Dr. Feltheimer is a big fan of the neti pot, which is used to physically flush out your nasal cavities. It helps to get rid of all the gunk in your nose, and can rinse out viruses that might make you sick. You fill the pot with distilled or boiled water and mix it with a saline packet, which you can buy at drugstores. Then you use the spout to pour the mixture into your nose. (We recommend doing this one in the privacy of your own home.) Under no circumstances should you use straight tap water. A few years ago there were two cases of brain infection reported which were linked to neti pot usage with tap water. (Very rare, but don't take the chance.) Dr. Feltheimer recommends rinsing every night before bed.
Drink Up: No, this does not include champagne. Staying well-hydrated is important to keep all your systems running properly, but it also helps to prevent infection in a very direct way. "If you get dehydrated, your skin cracks and the viruses can get in through cracking skin and dry mucosa in the nose and mouth," Dr. Feltheimer said. "You have to keep everything moist."
His final words of advice? "Seriously, don't try to gut it out or work through it. Just go home."