Disclaimer: this post is more geared towards those who are looking for advice for their own Gap Year in Paris, but feel free to read anyway!
There are fewer things I find worse than being sick. I can't stand it. I know some people love taking days off to lie in bed, watch Netflix, eat food and otherwise do nothing...but that's my nightmare. Don't get me wrong, I'm good for the first hour or two, but after that I'm fidgety, moody and downright mad about being less than 100% healthy. What's worse is being sick in Paris. I spent most of my senior year in high school battling this illness or combating that ailment. My goal in Paris was/is to spend as few days sick in bed as possible, but everyone has their downfalls sometimes. Being sick in Paris is hard for me because 1. My hatred of illness and 2. In the beginning, I was clueless about how to handle it. Luckily (or maybe unluckily considering I have had practice in being sick...) I have figured out how to conquer it all!
In America, I would take some medication, eat those go-to snack foods that you have had since you were a kid and sleep it off. Worst case scenario I would call my aunt (she's a pediatrician, but talking to loved ones can't hurt your sickness! Give your grandma a call!) and maybe then visit Children's Medical Atlanta (heck yeah I still see a doctor for kids...the grownup doctors don't even have my favorite lollipop flavor OR stickers!!!).
I figured it would be something similar in Paris and while it isn't too different, I wasn't as prepared as I could have been. Here is my advice for getting back on your feet and in the streets and cafes of Paris ASAP:
1. Be aware that your favorite comfort food may not be available here. Before I left I heard that goldfish crackers didn't exist in Paris so I stocked up in my luggage. I'm glad I did because that's all I ate for two days the first time I got sick. There are still plenty of comfort (and health friendly!) options! Ignore the saying about starving a cold or a fever or whatever it is. Your body needs food and liquids and Paris is no slouch on those two. Just maybe avoid the coffee and wine for a few days :)
2. The pharmacy is recognizable by the giant green plus sign and it is a lot less scary than you think! Even if you don't speak any French, you can usually manage to get what you need by A. Speaking English very politely and B. Miming out your ailment (just don't get TOO realistic...).
3. Going to the doctor's office usually involves going to an apartment down the street turned into a small practice. The first time I went to one, I thought I was about to enter someone's home! In a way, it feels nicer than being in a cold, white room.
4. If you can't/don't want to go to a doctor...they can come to you! House visits are much more of a regular thing in Paris than in the United States and don't cost much more than a regular visit to an office (those usually range from €20-€30 and depending on your healthcare, you can be reimbursed! Think of all the croissants you can buy with that money!!!). The service is called SOS Medicins. A friend of mine has called them to visit her and said it was pain-free and easy! They can also come at odd hours which is really helpful if something comes up where you can't get yourself to a doctor right away! Bonus: you don't even have to change out of your pajamas!
5. Your parents are a phone call away if you're really struggling, but if you're doing this program, take advantage of your host family. They are in charge of taking care of you for a reason. They care about your health and wellness! My host mom (who I am pretty convinced is just the greatest French woman to walk the earth ever) has been there for any little cough or sneeze I've had. She has made the doctors appointments for me when I lost my voice (or was too scared to call a French person), made me tea, let me sleep for a ridiculous amount of hours and acted like my own mom would.
Overall, getting sick is no fun and missing a day to explore some nook or cranny in Paris is less than ideal, but the most important thing to remember is that if you don't take care of yourself throughout this semester/year, you'll be burnt out and feeling bad the whole time. Make sure to drink water and rest (believe me...I know it's hard. I only slept 3 or 4 hours the first week or two and really paid the price) and as I always like to say:
"Positive Thinking, Positive Feeling, Positive Outcome"
And as the French would say:
“Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir” AKA “It is better to prevent than to heal"
Cheers and good health!