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Why Do I Keep Getting Sick? 7 Reasons to Consider

Do you dread the winter cold and flu season? If you’re wondering why you get sick so often, there may be several reasons. While there’s no way to never get sick, our guide can help you reduce the number of sick days you’ll take this fall. 

How many colds per year is considered normal?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the average adult has two to three colds per year, and children typically get more. Colds generally take about 7 to 10 days to get over and can easily spread from person to person through living in close quarters, sneezing without covering your mouth, and touching surfaces without washing your hands. 

Why do I get sick so often?

Despite the ease with which cold viruses spread, some people seem to be immune while others are always sniffling. Your immune system is a complex mechanism, and several factors can either strengthen it or cause it to be compromised. If you’re wondering why you keep getting sick, there can be several things you can do to reduce how often you’re ill. 

Immune disorder

An immune system that isn’t functioning properly leads to frequent illnesses. Some disorders are genetic, and some are a result of viruses that compromise the immune system. There are different types of immune disorders. Sometimes people are born with a weak immune system, called primary immune deficiency. If you contract an illness that weakens your immune system, it’s called acquired immune deficiency.

An immune system that isn’t functioning properly leads to frequent illnesses. Some disorders are genetic, and some are a result of viruses that compromise the immune system.

Immune disorders can also include an abnormal immune reaction, like what happens with an allergic reaction. Your immune system can also turn on your body and begin attacking normally functioning cells, which is called an autoimmune disease.

You can take precautions to avoid contracting an immune disorder such as HIV or AIDS. Practicing safe sex and avoiding body fluid contact can reduce your exposure. However, some compromised immune systems are just a result of genetics. If you notice that you’re constantly getting sick, you may want to talk to your doctor to rule out an immune disorder. 

Chronic stress

Stress can suppress the performance of your immune system and lead to more frequent illness. Elevated stress levels aren’t just in your mind; your body reacts to stress by releasing cortisol, a hormone that creates a “fight or flight” response in your body. Usually, high levels of cortisol aren’t conducive to healing.

You may not even realize that you’re living with chronic stress. Between work, family, and the tasks of daily life, the symptoms of living with chronic stress may just feel normal. Some symptoms of chronic stress include low libido, chronic muscle tension, fatigue, difficulty focusing, sleep disturbances, and tension headaches.

Chronic stress can make it more difficult to form other healthy habits that can help keep you from getting sick, like proper nutrition, good sleep, and just taking care of yourself in general. To combat this, consider incorporating daily meditation into your routine, or take up a peaceful hobby such as yoga, gardening, or light exercise.

Sleep deprivation

Proper sleep is essential to a strong immune system. Going to sleep and waking up at a consistent time every day can help your body naturally regulate your circadian rhythm. Plus, when you’re sick, you need plenty of rest to help your body heal.

Although you might be in dreamland, when you’re asleep, your body is hard at work repairing damage to your muscles and tissues. Sleep also gives your body a chance to fight off viruses. 

To improve your sleep quality, turn off your electronics when you go to bed, and avoid screens an hour or so before you plan to fall asleep.

It’s not just the amount of time that you sleep; it’s also the quality. For example, falling asleep with the TV on can disrupt your REM sleep. To improve your sleep quality, turn off your electronics when you go to bed, and avoid screens an hour or so before you plan to fall asleep. 

Leukopenia

This term refers to a low white blood cell count. It has several causes, but the result of leukopenia is the same. Without sufficient numbers of white blood cells, you’re unable to fight off the viruses that cause illness. Typical symptoms of leukopenia include fever, sweating, chills, fatigue, and getting sick often.

There are five different types of white blood cells, and each one has a separate role when fighting off intruders in your body, from funguses and viruses to bacteria. 

Leukopenia can occur when your medical condition (or the side effects of some medications) prevents new white blood cells from forming in your marrow or kills off the white blood cells faster than they can reproduce.

Without sufficient numbers of white blood cells, you’re unable to fight off the viruses that cause illness. Typical symptoms of leukopenia include fever, sweating, chills, fatigue, and getting sick often.

Low white blood cell counts can be a result of severe viral infections, such a bad cold or the flu. In the short term, this interferes with white blood cell production. Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, may also compromise your white blood cell production.

More severe conditions that lead to low white blood cell count include blood cell or bone marrow conditions such as aplastic anemia, overactive spleen, and myelodysplastic syndromes. Leukemia, a form of cancer, also results in low blood cell counts. HIV or AIDS and tuberculosis can cause leukopenia.

Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, may also compromise your white blood cell production.

If you often get sick and have a hard time recovering from a cold or the flu, you may want to have your doctor run a blood panel to rule out a more severe underlying illness.

Poor oral hygiene

While you probably know that brushing and flossing regularly can help prevent gum disease and tooth decay or loss, proper oral hygiene also can reduce your instances of illnesses. Brushing your teeth helps regulate the bacteria in your mouth, reducing the harmful bacteria and creating an environment where the good bacteria can thrive and ward off illness.

Poor diet and dehydration

Nutrient deficiency can be one of the main reasons it’s harder for your body to fight off illnesses. Micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals that help your body’s systems perform at an optimal level are essential to having a healthy immune system and helping your body heal faster.

Not drinking enough water can lead to chronic dehydration, which can weaken the effectiveness of your immune system.

Several vitamins can lend a helping hand. Vitamin A, found in colorful vegetables, helps build a robust immune system. Vitamin D, known to help lift your mood, also helps your body regulate the essential antimicrobial proteins that help fight off foreign viruses.

Not drinking enough water can lead to chronic dehydration, which can weaken the effectiveness of your immune system. Strive for at least 64 ounces of pure water per day and reduce soda consumption. 

Chronic illness

People with chronic medical conditions may be more susceptible to catching colds or getting the flu. If you have high blood pressure, hypertension, congestive heart disease, or diabetes (either type 1 or type 2), then your immune system may already be working overtime to combat the disease itself.

By improving your nutrition and working with your primary care team to manage your chronic illness, you may be able to reduce how often you get sick.

Living with a chronic illness means you need to take proactive steps to manage your condition and promote healthy habits. By improving your nutrition and working with your primary care team to manage your chronic illness, you may be able to reduce how often you get sick.

When to see a doctor

If your cold lasts longer than the typical 7 to 10 days or you can’t seem to shake a persistent cough or fever, then you may have an underlying medical condition. Lingering colds or the flu can lead to pneumonia, so it’s important to take steps to prevent it.

A high fever (greater than 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit) or a fever lasting for more than five days is a sign that you may need immediate medical attention. If you have persistent shortness of breath or wheezing, then you may need to see a doctor. Secondary infections, such as an ear infection or strep throat, may follow on the heels of a cold you can’t shake.

How to not get sick

Eat well, drink plenty of water, and make sure that you get consistent, restful sleep. This is the best way to build a healthy body and reduce your incidences of getting sick. During the winter months, you’ll likely be inside more, in close proximity with sick people. Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water. Wipe down surfaces that get touched often, like your computer keyboard, desk, and countertops.

Eat well, drink plenty of water, and make sure that you get consistent, restful sleep. This is the best way to build a healthy body and reduce your incidences of getting sick.

Follow our advice about reducing stress and make sure to pay attention to your symptoms. Remember that sometimes your cold may be a sign of something more serious, so always consult with your physician if you have any concerns.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605#targetText=When%20to%20see%20a%20doctor,Shortness%20of%20breath

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