Science Says You Can Tell If Someone Is Sick By Doing This One Simple Thing

by Caroline Burke

You know how annoying it is when you walk into a room, and someone immediately gasps and remarks upon how tired or ill you look? Yeah, well, unfortunately, those jerks might be on to something, because apparently, there's a new study that explains how to tell someone is sick just by looking at them. It's time to hunker down for a few months of the most awkward water-cooler talk in office spaces everywhere.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society B, revealed that untrained people can determine between a sick person and a non-sick person above chance level (aka more than half the time), when the sick person was having an immune response.

In the study, people looked at two pictures of different faces and tried to determine which person was the one who'd been injected with bacteria that led to an immune response (side note: bravo to the people who were voluntarily injected with said bacteria). In general, the people who were sick were rated to have these symptoms: paler lips and skin, swollen faces, hanging eyelids, droopier corners of the mouth, red eyes, and less glossy skin.

According to these results, you might actually want to pay attention the next time someone asks you if you're feeling tired or under the weather.

Now, let me just say this: I, too, f*cking hate it when a co-worker — or anyone for that matter — thinks they have license to scrutinize and talk about how I look. But let's break this down a little: Although this study certainly provides interesting and relatively concrete data, none of this is really that surprising, is it? The study specifically used a bacteria that would trigger a physical immune response, and swollen, red eyes, pale skin, and those other symptoms have all always been associated with being sick.

The more interesting question, in my opinion, is how many reportedly "healthy" people look this way (and field those "OMG, are you OK?!" questions at work all the time because they actually aren't getting enough sleep or treating their bodies well)?

All too often, we tend to ignore the signs from our bodies that are trying to tell us to slow down, eat healthier, or sleep more.

As annoying as it is when someone tells you that you look sick or tired, it might be worth something to take a moment, step back, and actually consider what they're saying. If it's some piece-of-garbage co-worker who's basically asking you why you're not wearing makeup, then you have every right to move forward with your day after "accidentally" tripping them in passing. But if it's a friend or loved one who's saying you look a little off, that's when you might want to pay attention.

We're in the thick of winter now, so there's no better time than the present to start paying attention to how your own face looks in the mirror each morning. Really look at yourself, think about your self-care habits lately. Are you taking good care of yourself? How do you feel when you wake up in the morning to tackle your day?

Self-love begins with self-awareness and acceptance. Pay attention to the signs of your body, and you'll be rewarded with an overall healthier lifestyle.

If you're feeling just plain exhausted, consider taking the weekend to reset your sleep patterns (aka start aiming for seven to eight hours daily, not just 15 hours one night). Since winter tends to encourage hibernation-style living (hello, sedentary nights and broccoli soup in a bread bowl), you might want to think about how you can give your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, and what type of movement suits you in the frigid cold. I personally love Bikram yoga in the winter, but that's just me.

Keep in mind, this study does say that people were only able to predict sickness with a likelihood "better than chance," so if you're feeling great, tell that co-worker to f*ck off and go enjoy your day.