As working actors, we come in contact with lots of people at auditions and rehearsals. Our jobs demand that we’re usually in close proximity to other people; we breathe on each other, share props, and sometimes, we spit on our fellow actors when we enunciate properly. So in this really bad cold and flu season, how do you protect yourself from getting sick?
Viruses spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those viral-infected droplets can travel up to several feet. Viruses can also live for days on any object that comes in contact with an infected person. Touching your nose, mouth or eyes after handling an object contaminated by a virus means you’re probably going to get sick. A flu infected person can spread the infection one day before any symptoms emerge, and for up to a week later.
Wash Your Hands. This may seem obvious, but seriously, wash your hands a lot. Not only are you touching things that others have held, you’re also taking the train and touching railings and bus seats so seriously, wash your hands.
Don’t Touch Your Face. Those pesky cold and flu viruses get into your body through your eyes and nose, so avoid touching your face if you can.
Clean Your Phone. Our phones are always with us. We touch elevator buttons, we shake hands and sometimes we sit our phone on public counters or tables. Cleaning your phone regularly cuts back on the germs that get near your face and mouth.
Get a flu shot. Flu vaccines are the best way to ensure that you don’t contract the virus. Two weeks after your shot, antibodies develop in your body that provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. You can’t catch the flu from getting the shot. The CDC site gives you some answers to those flu shot myths.
So what do you do if you start to feel that tickle in your throat and your body feels tired and you’re pretty sure you’re getting sick?
Hydrate. Drink water, juice, herbal tea with lemon and honey, or clear broth. Staying hydrated helps to loosen up that phlegm in your throat and chest and it also prevents dehydration.
Gargle. 1/4 of a tsp of salt in 8oz of water can do wonders for your sore throat. The saltwater eases swelling, loosens mucus and helps the tender parts of your sore throat to heal.
Sleep. If you’re in rehearsals or doing a show during cold and flu season, it’s imperative that you not go out with your cast-mates after but instead, go home and go to bed. Lack of sleep lowers your immune system and makes it more likely that you’re going to stay sick longer. If you can take a sick day from work you should and try spending most of that time in bed, resting and asleep. If you’re having a hard time with your symptoms, try using an extra pillow to prop yourself up and relieve your sinus pressure.
Eat. There are some immunity boosting foods that can actually help you during those first signs of a cold. Strawberries, yogurt, garlic, chicken soup, oatmeal, carrots and dark chocolate all have immune system boosters that help your body to build antibodies, white blood cells and help to fight off infection.
Bathe. Take a long hot shower. Loosen up all that phlegm and congestion with the steam. It really does help. And if you have a humidifier, use it.
Remember that if you’re sick, your fellow cast-mates are likely to contract your cold or flu if you don’t take care of yourself. If you have to wear a mask, do it. There’s no shame in protecting the people around from getting your funk.
And if all else fails, you might need to see a doctor. Don’t be afraid to let your stage manager and your director know that you’re ill. It’s been our experience that most management teams are completely understanding.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, DEAR ACTOR! AND BREAK A LEG!