Sep 26th, 2018, 01:42 AM

Paris Isn't Sick When You're Sick in Paris

By Kathleen Sharp
Image Credit: Unsplash/Rawpixel
A how-to guide to staying healthy as you study in the City of Lights.

While exciting and educational, my first semester at The American University of Paris came with plenty of doctor's visits and stuffy noses. Since then I've picked up a thing or two about living healthfully in Paris and about French healthcare, so I hope to help other sniffling students and first-years as they brave what may be their first experience living away from home.

Our immune systems weaken as we put their bodies through the standard practices of modern student life, resulting in a host of diseases: a cold, the flu, and the dreaded French "gastro," or gastroenteritis. So why are students' immune systems so poor? There are lots of reasons, but I'll address the main ones. Drinking alcohol, as fun as it can be, takes its toll on the body. While unpleasant, hangovers are bearable, and for teenagers and twenty-somethings they typically don't last more than a day. The true cost, as the National Center for Biotechnology Information confirms, is that drinking alcohol "disrupts [the immune system]" and that these "disruptions can impair the body's ability to defend against infection." Don't let this information get between you and a Moscow Mule or two—it certainly won't for me—on a Friday night, but maybe it should come between you and seven shots of tequila before an exam week. A second and obvious culprit, the Parisian-chic habit of smoking cigarettes could also contribute to your susceptibility to disease. Cutting back will save you trips to the doctor and keep you from missing precious class time. 

Image Credit: Unsplash/Annie Spralt

Next, taking care of your apartment is by extension taking care of yourself. Living on your own, you must take ownership of your apartment. Be responsible for changing your pillowcases and sheets at a minimum of once per week and washing them at 60° Celsius. (Pro tip, drying them in sunlight kills micro-organisms with UV rays). Throw out your kitchen sponge every week and sanitize it daily by wetting it completely then putting it in the microwave for two minutes. Lastly, it's unfair, but if your roommates don't take care of your place, it falls on you to pick up the slack. Your roommate doesn't want to wash her sheets or socks? Do them for her as a favor when she's out. Believe me, it'll be better than catching something from her when she later coughs all over your house. 

Sadly, there's a health risk with taking public transportation. I take the bus or the metro multiple times a day and I love their convenience. But as a frequent rider, I've observed a certain phenomenon that I've dubbed "metro hands." Metro hands come from touching the pole on the metro or opening door latches, but the term is also applicable to bus seats and the bus's dangling handles. Thousands of people ride on Paris's bus and metro lines. Thus many, many people have grabbed whatever you hold when you board public transport. Try your best to keep your hands to yourself and do carry hand sanitizer. Wash your hands as soon as possible upon returning home. Do not touch your eyes, mouth, face or anyone else's with your metro hands, either. It's not at all bon pour la santé!

Image Credit: Unsplash/Matt Briney

Living on your own is tough. No one's there to drive you to the doctor's office—if you can, choose Uber when you're miserably sick, taking the metro with an upset stomach is not fun!—nor to fetch your medicine from the pharmacy. The university staff in AUP's health office is the next best thing to your parents when you're not feeling well. They recommend English-speaking doctors and phone them on your behalf to book appointments. Remember when you're at the doctor's or picking up prescriptions to request "la feuille de soins" because the health office will assist you in filling out forms so you're properly covered by French and private health insurance. Do take advantage of the health office's services! They are a godsend when you're under the weather or have questions about where to seek medical attention. 

Finally, practice common sense! You've made it this far in life and are a competent human being. You know it's not good to sleep less than eight hours, drink on an empty stomach, or live strictly off a diet of Ben & Jerry's and Uber Eats Kentucky Fried Chicken, even if they seem like good or yummy ideas at the time. Nourish your body and brain so that you can excel in your classes and be in the best shape to enjoy Paris!