Last week I caught Ken Classen, who I hadn’t seen lately, at the pool. Turns out he wasn’t swimming because I may have inadvertently cursed him—he got sick the day I posted about his super ability to swim through being ill!
And, after hearing how he had to cancel the same January San Francisco open water trip two years in a row because of illness, I understand why he’s spooked. I’m the same way, but my “I don’t want to book until the very last minute in case I’m sick” window is October through December.
I’m not sure what prompts Ken’s January flu, but I know my red flags that (especially when combined) wear me down while spiking inflammation in my body, which make me most susceptible to getting sick during the last quarter of every year:
Dry, forced heat is turned on within buildings: Rarely cleaned vents and ducts harbor decades of accumulated dust and crud that irritates my asthma and allergies, which I then breathe in once the heat is turned on for the season. Buildings are also less likely to circulate fresh air October-December because they seal up their spaces until spring to save on heating costs.
Special occasion food temptation: My birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s—it’s a lot of not-for-me holiday food to evade. I do my best to pre-plan with some dishes and treats that are still “special” to me but won’t cause a reaction, but it can be tough to pass up on everything one-hundred percent, especially when holiday delicacies are everywhere.
Leaves fall from trees: One of the prettiest hallmarks of fall, yes, but once leaves hit the ground they mold, and mold is probably my worst allergy. Then there’s the leaf blowing penchant—air-born mold that just resettles elsewhere if you don’t bag the leaves. Not helping!
General draggy-ness: “Falling back” for day light savings is up there with “closing the outdoor 50m pool” among the annual days I dread. Post-fall DSL feels so forced-dark, which I find very tiring. And for whatever the reason, adapting to the new hour seems to take longer than one time zone adjustment when traveling.
People with various bugs walking around: It’s hard to avoid exposure when it seems like everyone has the new strain of the plague. And did I mention that I’m already pretty vulnerable for other reasons during flu season?
Less fresh air and sun light exposure: Cold snaps, heavy snowfall and fewer outdoor exercise options (e.g. bike trails are iced over, the majority of outdoor pools are closed, shorter days) all add up to my daily outdoor hours dropping from an average of 4-6 hours to 1-2 (and on some days [think: blizzards!] am inside the entire time…)
April is my other iffy-health month. Many of the fall-winter conditions are reversing, which is helpful for me, but two key factors tend to make me susceptible to illness:
Blooming plants, trees and grasses: All of which pump pollen into the air, another major asthma/allergy trigger for me. Some springs I squeak by though—when it’s cooler and not very windy. Or, when a lot of rain washes away pollen.
Flu shot wears off: I try to get my flu shot mid-October or early November so I’m covered through May, but there have been years when I’ve gotten a mild case of the flu late April or early May, which is super vexing because by then I always think I’m home free for the year.
They always say “awareness is the first step” when addressing an issue, but I am aware of the triggers to susceptibility. Other than avoiding the triggers, I’m not sure what more I can do…I’ll always keep looking for anything new to try that boosts my immune system though (and share what I learn, of course!)
Next week: Swim Snob? You Decide!