How to protect ourselves against flu.

The cold season is coming, and with it the usual issues: cold, flu, cough, sore throat and so forth. Hong Kong is absolutely cramped with people, and as we know, people carry germs and bacteria. That’s inevitable. I particularly feel for those teachers who spend a lot of time with young children; I don’t know about the rest of the world, but kids in Hong Kong take their time to learn that a hand in front of their mouth must be put when coughing or sneezing (covering, inevitably, the unfortunate teacher or T.A. in sticky snot).

Are you a freelance teacher, or actor, or performer, and getting sick is the equivalent of either a) going to work feeling like crap, or b) taking a day off and losing a substantial amount of cash? Regardless of the job you do, read here.

In Hong Kong, Westerner doctors tend to pack patients with pills and medications that are rarely needed and not so often effective; they often insist in giving antibiotics for a cold – thing that I absolutely despise. Ultimately, the best way – tried, experimented and approved by my former weak immune system – to reinforce your immune system and avoid getting sick five times in a row is to go natural.

  • Sleep!

Yes, sleep. 8 hours at least. Your body needs rest, particularly when weakened by flu. Once you go home, don’t waste time in checking your emails, facebooking, watching TV and whatnot. Go. To. Bed.

  • Drink liquids, particularly hot ones.

We live in a country where we drink hot water even when it’s 40 degrees Celsius outside. But hot fluids are considered to be more gently on our vocal strings (very precious for teachers/actors/singers). My favourite flu drink is shredded ginger, Manuka honey and lemon in hot water. It soothes sore throat and it’s a real cough stopper!

  • Boil Coke.

Yes, seriously. And no, don’t say it’s disgusting until you have tried it. Take a can of coke, boil it with shredded ginger and lemon, and make sure that the ginger soaks in for a while. Drink it hot, feel the spicy note of the ginger opening your nose and restoring your throat. If drunken in the morning (again, if work is necessary) it’s a great energy drink.

  • Tea tree oil.

My favourite thing in the world! It clears sinus and calms down heavy cough. Here’s what I do: I boil a pot of hot water and I put few drops of tea tree oil in it. I cover my head with a towel, and my eyes with a sleeping mask (a must do, particularly if wearing contact lenses), breathing in and out the hot heavy-scented fumes for 15 minutes, twice a day. I never went longer than 4 days, as my cough/cold ended before!

  • Gargle!

With salt, or vinegar, or tea tree oil in warm water, several time a day.

  • Paracetamol.

Ok, perhaps not 100% natural, but a pill or two a day might be needed, particular if your temperature rises.

Ultimately, it all comes down to relaxation and hydration. Decide what the priority in your schedule is, and try to cancel the rest. Or at least one commitment. It was the beginning of the year and we were a week away from the opening of the theatre production of Den of Thieves. I started feeling sick but I did not want to stay home and leave the cast on their own, so I carried on with as much rehearsals as I could. Two days later our deputy stage manager had exactly what I had before, and it quickly spread among the rest of the cast. The actors put together a wonderful and energetic round of performances, but by the time we had wrapped the production, I could count the people untouched by flu on the fingers of one hand. I have now learnt that it is probably best to cancel a couple of rehearsals rather than going on at all costs.