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6 Owner Operator Tips for Being Sick OTR

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Ever had to pull over to puke? We sure hope not! Being sick is never fun. And whether it's aches, pains, chills, a fever, stomach discomfort, or drowsiness, symptoms of sickness can severely interfere with your life. Being sick while OTR, however, is a whole extra layer of torture! 

It's definitely the cold and flu season, so we wanted to give you some tips on how to deal with being sick on the road! For some tips and tricks, we asked none other than those who know exactly how it feels to be sick on the road. What do some owner operators do to make the drive a little easier? Keep reading to find out!

Keep in mind, these tips and tricks may work differently for everybody. Safety comes first, and you should listen to your body and be aware of your sickness level to determine what's right for your own health. 


Everyone knows its important to drink a lot of water - The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend anywhere from 11 to 16 cups of water a day for a healthy adult, or eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. When you're sick, you become dehydrated more easily, whether it's from a fever or vomiting. 

Dehydration can lead to headache, confusion, and dizziness. When you're sick, you'll often have less of an appetite or less energy than you normally would, so it might be difficult to eat and drink enough. Just remember that your body needs to stay hydrated to fight off the virus or infection - so do your best to drink those fluids.

Tip #2 - Weigh Your Meds

No, we don't actually mean you should go out and see how much your medications, either doctor prescribed or over-the-counter, weigh. What we mean is weigh the pros and cons of different medications. If you go to the doctor for a cold and he tells you not to drive on the medication - absolutely do not drive on the medication. There are some medications, though, that are safe to drive on. If you're taking an over-the-counter decongestant or cold medicine, make sure you know how your body reacts to those medications. If the medication says "non-drowsy", those are going to be your best bet. Even if a medication says "non-drowsy" you may still experience drowsiness while taking it. Remember, it's better to be sick without the meds than to take the meds, feel a little better, and then fall asleep while driving. 

You should also be aware of how your stomach will react to certain medications. There are some that might upset you -  and depending on what your sickness is, this could lead to more problems than the medication is worth. 

Tip #3 - Sleep When You Can

Being sick is exhausting. You may not be sleeping as well at night, but you should still try to get an hour or two more sleep than you would while not sick. If you can fit it into your driving schedule, we know...14-hour-rule...maybe take a nap during the day.

Sleep will help your body recover, so make sure you're getting your zzz's. 

If you haven't been sleeping well and aren't focused on driving, pull over. It's better to deal with the ramifications of being a little behind schedule rather than dealing with the issues that come along with falling asleep on the road or causing an accident because of impaired judgment. Your truck, your company, and the other drivers on the road will thank you for pulling over rather than driving dangerously. 

Tip #4 - Adjust Your Day

If you've caught a particularly nasty sickness, it could be beneficial to plan your day around where you can access a bathroom. If you know your stomach is going to give you trouble, and your normal bathroom options might not be enough, plan your day so that you can access truck stop restrooms or other public bathrooms. One of the major differences between working a trucking job and working a non-trucking job while sick is your access to a bathroom - so make it easier on yourself!

It might also be helpful to pack an extra pack of wet wipes or toilet paper. These could be used for emergency bathroom trips of course, but you can use the wet wipes to wipe down your face if you're feeling sweaty; and you can use the toilet paper to blow your nose. 

Tip #5 - Utilize Your Food Choices

Another helpful hint for being sick while OTR revolves around food - if you normally don't eat the best while OTR, maybe try and plan some healthier meals for when your body needs that extra TLC. Food is fuel, and it can have a big impact on how you're feeling. If you're looking for immunity boosting foods that your body will thank you for, try adding in some garlic to your diet, which promotes healthy gut flora and helps get rid of bacterias, viruses, and toxins in your body. Beef is another good option if you have a cold, as it contains a lot of zinc. Zinc is important to the development of white blood cells, which fight infection. 

Sweet potatoes, chicken noodle soup, fish, citrus, milk, sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate are also great options that have been shown to boost your body and help fight sickness. Incorporate some of these into your meals or snacks throughout the day to keep your body fighting. 

If you'd like more info on what foods are the best to keep on your truck (sick or not!) check out this infographic!

Tip #6 - Know Your Limitations

The most important thing tip to remember when sick OTR is that you know your own body. If you don't feel up for driving, then don't. It's as simple as that. It's much better to park your rig and recover (just be sure dispatch knows your plan) than to put yourself and others in danger if you're not completely focused on your rig and the road. Assess your situation and ask yourself if you feel comfortable driving. How sick are you? Only you know! 

We hope these helped . . . 

We know that being sick while on the road can be horrible - but we also hope these tips might come in handy for you this cold and flu season! Remember to get a flu shot, drink lots of fluids to keep your body hydrated, and to listen to your body. You know it better than anyone, and you're the judge when it comes to whether or not it's safe to drive! 

If you're a K & J driver, we have an awesome OTR sick basket that we have prepared. If you want one, let us know! It has all the essentials for helping you if you are caught sick while on the road. Contact the office for more information!


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