I love my partner, but I’d be lying if I said that at first signs of her sniffling or coughing my concern is 100 percent about her. Of course, I don’t want to see her get the flu or even a bad cold—but I don’t want to see me get one, either. And when you live with someone, that’s what tends to happen. If you’re not careful, the two of you can morph into one big, sad pile of germs. So when one of us develops a suspicious sneeze or at the first tickle of a sore throat, we both panic a little.
But when your partner is sick, you want to take care of them; that’s one of the great things about being in a committed partnership—you help take care of each other when one of you isn’t feeling well. But is there any way that you can take care of your partner without getting yourself sick? Well, there’s no guaranteed remedy (unfortunately), but you can take some steps to protect yourself, even while you’re cleaning up those gross little balls of used tissue your partner has left lying around.
Here’s what you need to do.
Keep Your Fluids Up—for Both of You
There’s a reason that the first thing a doctor normally tells you when you’re sick is “stay hydrated”—it’s one of the only things that will make your partner feel a little more human and can help you stay healthy. Water is key, but if I start to feel like I’m lagging, I’ll go for some coconut water or water mixed with Airborne or a vitamin C fizzy tab to help me keep going. Speaking of which, vitamin C can do you wonders. I know that it’s a bit of an old wives’ tale because the medical research is inconsistent about whether it actually works, but the placebo effect at the very least gives me a buzz. There has also been some research into black elderberry syrup (Sambucol) and it’s been recommended for treating the flu. Obviously, if you have an infection or something that requires an antibiotic, you should follow your doctor's orders.
Be patient. I know, your partner is probably complaining. They're probably complaining a lot. And, if your partner happens to be a man, we all know the histrionics that can come with man flu (see: the man cold vs. the mom cold play out in this hilarious video). It can be exhausting running to and fro every time they need a little water or a cracker or a just to whine a little, but stick with them. Take a few deep breaths and remember that they’ll be doing the same for you one day. Hopefully.
Rearrange Your Sleeping Arrangements
My friend recently came down with the Australian flu and spent nine days in bed—which meant her husband spent nine days on their pull-out couch. You might not need to do this every time your partner is sick, but don’t be afraid to change the sleeping arrangements if you have to. If you have a big meeting or an interview coming up—or kids that need to be taken care of—sometimes using a quarantine can keep you from getting ill. And if you do get sick, at least you’ll have a few good night’s sleep under your belt.
Whether it’s gentle or rigorous, make time for exercise. Exercise boosts your immune system and gives you mental clarity, two things that can be incredibly helpful when your partner is sick. Do what you think feels right for you. If you’re feeling antsy and cooped up with your partner, make time for a run. If you’re feeling exhausted and need some grounding, some seated yoga should do the trick.
Wash Your Hands
I shouldn’t even have to say it, because we’ve all been hearing it since we were at school, but it’s so important. The only way you’re going to have a chance at staying well is if you’re keeping everything clean and sanitized. Wash your hands. Wash them some more.
If the only thing they can stomach is the idea of ginger ale or Oreos, then give them ginger ale or Oreos. If you feel so wiped out from taking care of them that you just want to order food delivery, go for it. When one of you is out of commission, it can throw you for a total loop. Don’t be afraid to treat yourselves until you’re both fighting fit again.
When one partner is sick, it’s really easy for your whole home to turn into a germ-filled meltdown zone. Try to balance caring for your partner and caring for yourself. Give both of you the nourishment you need—even if that means taking an hour for yourself. And, above all, hydrate and wash your hands.