With back to school out of the way and the holidays upon us, another season is about to arrive: cold and flu season. As a student who managed to contract strep throat in her first three weeks of school, I am the first to sympathize with the challenges of staying on top of studies when you’re fighting a fever, coughing, and congestion—when you’re miserable and more tired than usual. In high school and college, casually taking a week off to completely recover from a cold isn’t typically an option. Here are some quick do’s and don’ts to successfully fight an illness without losing track of your academics.
Miss as few classes as possible
It makes a world of difference to be present in your classes each day. Many studies correlate strong attendance with strong academic performance. Therefore, missing class is something you should avoid as much as possible. Not only do you miss the lesson and explanations of what you’re learning, but you’ll also have to make up more work. Still…
Don’t go to class when you’re contagious
There are times when it’s beneficial to miss class. For example, if you’re so sick you can’t concentrate on anything other than how you feel, it’s probably a better idea to stay home and get well sooner. This goes without saying, but if you have something highly contagious such as the flu or strep throat, please stay home until you’re not contagious to avoid giving it to those around you. Your teachers and classmates will thank you.
Communicate with your teachers
Ever heard of the saying “communication is key”? It’s true! Let your teachers know that you’re sick and going to miss class before class begins. This is not only the responsible thing to do for attendance purposes, but it also demonstrates that you’re serious about their classes when you make them aware of your illness and absence before class starts.
Don’t expect unlimited time for makeups
Being sick doesn’t give you a free pass on schoolwork. Most schools have protocols for how long students have to make up work after returning (at my high school, it was five days), but sometimes it also depends on the individual teacher.
Meet whatever guidelines your teachers set for you. The critical point here is to not feel entitled to exemptions from their assignments. In certain cases, the teacher may make it clear that you don’t have to participate in something you missed in class, but don’t assume this will be the case.
A good way to see what you’re expected to make up is to send each teacher an email asking how you’ll make up for something in class that isn’t easily replicated at home such as a seminar or lab. The way they respond will let you know their preferences.
Take care of yourself
When you’re sick, one of the most important things you can do is rest and get enough sleep. This goes for just about every illness. Even though it’s easy to feel judged based on how much you accomplish as students, this is one occurrence where the challenge is to do as little as possible.
Use this as an opportunity to catch up on your sleep. Not only will this help your immune system fight and your body restore itself, but establishing a good sleep schedule will help you fight off illness in the future.
Related: How to Stay Healthy in College
Don’t procrastinate makeup work
Waiting until you return to school to catch up on what you missed will most likely result in a landslide of work as you scramble to catch up while dealing with current assignments. The solution to this is working to keep up with your classes even when you’re out sick.
Most (if not all) of your assignments can be done while you’re sitting down or in bed. You’ll feel productive even as you binge-watch Netflix and eat chicken soup. Remember that you would normally be spending seven hours at school (in high school), so if you do homework for three and a half hours, you’re only doing half a school day. Keeping up will pay off in the long run and will make the return to school much more painless.
Related: Top 10 Ways to Avoid Procrastination
Take preventive measures to stay healthy
After getting sick, the last thing you want is to get sick again. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid getting sick in the first place. Make sure to wash your hands frequently, get enough sleep, make time for frequent exercise, get a flu shot, and avoid touching or sharing food and drinks with others. Protecting yourself is key to your health.
Don’t feel guilty about saying no
It’s okay to skip a club meeting, sports practice, or family event in the name of recovering from a cold or other illness. One of the most common reasons our immune systems get prone to illness is from overscheduling and not giving ourselves enough time to sleep and relax.
Maintaining your mental health and not overloading yourself will reduce stress and protect your body. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty if you just can’t do something, whether or not you’re sick—it’s more important to be passionate and involved in a few activities than to be a habitual participant in 12 different meetings and clubs. Don’t burn yourself out!