Ask A Pro is a our column focusing on work and health, intended to share straightforward information about what you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible while on the job. Questions will be answered by sexual health expert Sarah Patterson, M.Ed. (See full bio below.) Questions you’d like to have answered can be sent to our info (at) titsandsass address. Full anonymity is guaranteed.
Dear Ask A Pro,
My question is: what are the best ways to avoid getting sick when working? I find that when I am seeing multiple clients in a night it is emotionally and physically exhausting and I seem to be more susceptible to picking up colds or the flu. I’m sure this is a combination of a lowered immune system from the stress and pace of working mixed with swapping fluids and germs with unknown men.
Great question! You are correct in thinking that stress and exposure to infection can increase your chances of getting sick, but there are many things that can be done to deal with both stress and boosting your immune system.
Make sure you’re getting adequate rest between working, which means shutting off your mind and your body. Turn your phone off when you can afford to, either when you’re already booked for the evening or have a selected “day off.” If you have a particularly busy day of sessions, spend a few minutes closing your eyes and breathing deeply between work time, or find a certain ritual that helps you feel grounded.
Take time to hang out with friends and/or other sex workers to laugh, relax, and recharge yourself. If you smoke, drink coffee, or drink caffeinated soft drinks regularly, reduce or eliminate either your nicotine and caffeine intake, as both can be particularly damaging to your immune system.
You can also do small things in your diet to increase your immunity. Getting as many fruits and veggies as you can is awesome. I am particularly fond of getting a kale, green apple, ginger, lemon and parsley juice when I’m on the run and want a pick-me-up. Garlic is a fantastic immune booster, and great with things like dark, leafy greens. Natural supplements like astragalus and elderberry (available at a health food store, sold individually as tinctures or in formulas) are another awesome way to boost your immune system daily, and can be increased in dosage when feeling sick.
And if you do happen to get sick, a hot tea of cumin seed, grated ginger, cayenne pepper and lemon juice is a great way to combat the onset of ickyness. Cayenne pepper is a good source of Vitamin C and is strongly antimicrobial.
If you’re looking for more tips or know other workers who could use some, Persist Health Project has a guide to Health and Wellness Strategies for Folks in the Sex Trade, available in PDF on our website.
Sarah Elspeth Patterson is a health educator and founding organizer of Persist Health Project, a community-based health care organization in New York City. As the first health care provider in New York City run by and for folks involved with and impacted by the sex trade, Persist offers comprehensive health services while providing trainings to other health care professionals who serve us. This post was written with assistance from our dedicated interns, Kathryn Tanner and Rachel Allen.