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How to Handle Being Sick During School

If there is one thing I excel at, it’s doing my schoolwork even when I’m sick as a dog. This is because I have the immune system of an infant squirrel, and catch colds like Ash catches Pokemon. I just GOTTA catch’em all.

However, after long experience, I can promise you it is possible to keep on top of schoolwork. Yes, even when your head and sinuses are full of cotton wool.

Be kind to yourself.

Being sick, by definition, means you’re not at full capacity. Trying to be high energy at every event and extracurricular, or studying for three hours every day, isn’t going to help you get better. Prioritize sleep, soup and fluids, and other things that help you heal. You’re better served by getting sleep and healing quicker than studying poorly for an extra hour.

Focus on one thing at a time.

It’s really easy for a sick person’s brain to fly off on a tangent. That just makes life and everything feel so much harder. Do your best to develop tunnel vision when you’re ill – you’re not thinking ahead to how hard your next class will be, you’re focusing on actually taking notes in this one. You’re not thinking about sleep (much), you’re thinking about how to practice without hurting your voice. Once one class is over, you’re focusing on getting to the next classroom. This intense focus will make your day go by much faster, and help you get your stuff done, too.

Skip classes judiciously.

If you’re on death’s door, stay home. If you have a headache and mild sniffles, take some DayQuil and go to class. Like, if I skipped class every time I felt grody, I would have dropped out during my first set of finals freshman year. (I caught the flu and it was like 20 degrees below freezing.) I’ve skipped classes for colds, sure, but only because I was actually positive I would not be able to sit in class and take notes without being disruptive. Make sure to get the notes from someone who was there, though.

Protip: If you do show up to class while sick, but be a trooper about it, your professor may notice and give you mental brownie points. It’s like showing up to office hours.

Tell professors if, and only if, your cold is really the reason you can’t do the thing.

Don’t bother telling most of your professors if you’re ill. A lot of classes allow a few unexcused absences for the semester. Use these for emergencies and illness, not for funsies! The only time you need to tell a professor about your illness is when it is the primary reason your assignment will be late or if there are no excused absences. Be aware that you may need a doctor’s note for this. But seriously, only your applied teacher really needs to know, and even then only in lesson.

Medication helps, but be careful.

I made it to class today by the grace of the great gods Ibuprofen and Phenylephrine. Dayquil can be a lifesaver. However, do your best to take this stuff only when you really need it! Don’t mix medications. Vocalists, remember that this stuff dries out your vocal folds. If you have a question about medications or symptoms, go to your local Urgent care or campus clinic. That’s what they’re for.

In short, take care of yourself, and focus on just the next immediate task. It gets me through a LOT of colds, and it’ll help you get through too.

You’ve got this! Get healthy!

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