No matter how righteous missionaries are, they still get sick sometimes. It’s almost statistically impossible not to get sick as a missionary. And getting sick takes time away from the work of the Lord. No missionary likes to be sick or to have an ill companion. but sometimes, it just happens.
Most Common Sicknesses
The three most common diseases-by-contact for missionaries are colds, flu and norovirus. All three of these are passed from person to person by microparticles which are carried in microdroplets and passed from person. While any of these can be airborne, it is pretty uncommon to get sufficient amounts of these microparticles just by being in the room with an infected person.
The biggest culprit? Hands and surfaces. You can catch these by using the same utensils, doorknobs, handkerchiefs and bathrooms as infected people. Missionaries shake lots of hands, every day!
How Many Hands do Missionaries Shake?
If an elder shakes hands with 20 people per day (on average) and has a 23 months in the mission field (after their time in the MTC), they have shaken hands with 13,800 people by the time their mission ends. For sisters thats 10,200! That’s a lot of hands! We don’t want to make moms nervous or anyone nervous for that matter, but there are things you can do to make sure you are keeping yourself healthy during your mission.
So let’s review the communicable illnesses, individually:
Of the three of these nasty bugs, colds are almost completely passed around by contact with your nose. Dozens of tests shown that it is not contact with your hands or lips so much, but your own contact between infected hands and your nose that causes you to catch a cold. Cold viruses are most commonly found on places where the hands of others have been (like doorknobs, food utensils and handshakes). When they get passed to you and you then wipe your nose, you have transferred the virus to yourself. You can transfer it to others when you sneeze anywhere but into a tissue or the crook of your elbow.
Flu tends to be seasonal, and there is a yearly vaccine that you can take if you are the type who is susceptible to this disease. As with colds, be careful about where your lips have been (utensils, pens, hands, washcloths) as these can easily harbor the virus until being picked up by the next person.
Norovirus is usually the worst of the three, as it involves upset stomach, fever, diarrhea and perhaps vomiting. Norovirus is a nasty, infectious gastrointestinal disorder that affects more than 20 million people in the US alone, and causes more than 50,000 per year to be hospitalized. Many people who pick up this illness contract it from caring for those who already have it.
All three of these communicable diseases put an extra emphasis on the cleanliness of your hands, utensils, surfaces and clothing. proper washing for them all is important!
There are four basic ways to avoid getting sick on your mission. We suggest all four.
1) Wash your hands no less than twice a day. You can use hand sanitizer, (we recommend PureBioguard) on your hands, regularly and specifically after doing dishes and before eating.
2) Wash your dishes with sufficient soap or detergent, in the hottest water that you can get!
When washing by hand, allow your dishes to air-dry in a dish-holder that can drain back into your sink. Don’t towel-dry your dishes, as this can pass germs from one germ-carrying item to the towel, and then to the rest.
3) Practice healthy eating and hygiene habits, and take a multi-vitamin, a digestive aid (like CTR Vital). Wash your market foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Shower and change your socks. Have (at least) two pairs of shoes, and swap them out daily so they can breathe. If they get wet, dry them out between use.
4) Pray, and follow the Spirit. Missionaries who pray specifically for their health on their missions will be blessed by the Lord. And though health is not directly correlated to righteousness, there are powerful promises in the scriptures about how magnifying our callings as missionaries will help restore our bodies (see D&C 84:33).
This article is informational as well as promotional. We are partnered with both PureBioguard and CTR Vital because they have been found to work really well and have been recommended to us be dozens of people from missions around the world. If you haven’t read the story of Michaela Proctor avoiding getting sick on her mission in Africa by taking CTR Vital, read it now.
PureBioguard is a hand-spray that looks like hand sanitizer but contains no alcohol. What it does contain is an aloe-feeling agent that chemically bonds with your skin (or other surfaces) and blocks germs for up to twelve hours. Or about 25 times as long as hand sanitizer. It also works great on your feet, for preventing athlete’s foot and other foot-related infections. These are all recommendations from missionaries that have used it.