Today is the first day that I have felt decent in weeks. It all started about four weeks or so ago when I woke up with a pounding headache. I am, thankfully, not a headache kind of girl. I figured I had slept with my arm across my forehead and caused myself some crazy sinus pressure and tried to shrug it off. Yet, it was one persistent little throbber of a headache. Two days later my headache finally gave up and left. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it had packed its bags and moved into my chest. I felt pain in my chest but that to was sort of normal for me. I often have inflammation in the sac around my heart, known as pericarditis, which causes me to have chest pain. I was running a low-grade fever but hey, I’m part lupie and that’s pretty normal as well. So it took me a while to finally realize I actually was dealing with a virus or bacterial infection. Once I starting coughing, deep, gross, phlegmy coughs it became clear. I was sick, I mean normal people sick, not my normal sick….oh whatever, you know what I mean.
My glands hurt. Let me paint you a verbal picture here. They didn’t just get a little sore. They hurt so bad that just turning my head to look side to side was painful. Never in my life have my glands hurt like that. I started wondering if by some bizarre chance I had contracted the mumps! Don’t worry I didn’t. When you have an autoimmune disease, or a weakened immune system for any reason, simple viral and bacterial infections become very complicated in many ways. Because of this it is important for us to take extra precautions to protect ourselves during this time of year when the contagious seem over abundant. So four weeks of fever, cough, ache and lots of antibiotics later I give you the post that this experience has wrought….how to survive flu season as an autoimmune mess.
I don’t want to inundate you with information that should be obvious like wash your hands but I think it is important to cover some of the basics as well. Even if some are basic it is a good reminder that we need to be vigilant in caring for ourselves.
Drink plenty of water.
Drinking fluids keeps your body flushed out and well hydrated. This is the prime state it needs to be in to fight off infections. I say water instead of “fluids” because anything with caffeine or sugar is going to curb the positive effects of said fluids. Avoid the trouble and stay hydrated with the good stuff.
Cut back on alcohol.
Alcohol dehydrates the body which impairs the immune systems ability to respond to infections. It is the opposite effect as drinking plenty of water. So if you are worried about getting sick cut back on it.
We all know that stress is bad for people but it is really, really, bad for autoimmune messes. During cold and flu season schedule in times of relaxation to keep those stress levels down and your body prepared to deal with the real enemies of that nasty virus trying to creep in. Find something that helps you feel rested and restored and make it a priority. Maybe its having a few hours of uninterrupted Netflix bingeing, or that nice bubble bath, or time to chat with tried and true friends, whatever helps you recover from the emotional weights you’re under…do it for your health.
Get enough sleep.
Lack of sleep makes the body optimal for falling prey to that awful bug going around. The body needs time to recoup and recover each night. This is hard when chronic pain already makes sleeping difficult. So make the extra effort to hit the hay a bit earlier or turn off electronic devices a but sooner. Whatever it takes to sneak in a few extra winks because we need to try for all we can get when it is already hard enough to come by.
I know, I know, its hard. Read what I have to say about it on my post Why Giving Up On Exercise Is NOT An Option With A Chronic Illness. It really does help the immune system function better as well as increasing the lymphatic system to flush out those toxins so you can stay healthy. Can’t find an exercise that works with your chronic pain? Check out why I suggest tai chi here.
Cut back on the sweets.
Sugar is evil. It makes us smile while it systematically destroys the body. Sugar totally weakens proper immune function. If you are an autoimmune mess like me, you already have messed up immune function so do yourself a favor and cut out the sugar. For heaven’s sake though, don’t think chemical sweeteners are okay to replace that refined sugar with. If sugar is evil than chemical sweetener substitutes are the spawn of satan. You are not doing your body any favors choosing diet soda over regular or putting a shiny pink packet in your coffee over a cube or two. So down a dose of reality with that chemical concoction and do yourself a favor by dealing with raw honey or grade b maple syrup if you just can’t give sugar up. At least it is a minimally refined sugar. Best case scenario, you give up the sweets.
Buy a new toothbrush.
Okay, maybe this is gross but I just don’t think about my toothbrush every time I am at the store. I probably go way too long between new toothbrushes. As I began thinking about surviving flu season, I realized we keep our toothbrushes living together in a cup like one happy family….that shares all sorts of gross stuff like my happy little flu-bug. Separate and replace brushes. It will do the whole family good.
If you are not already downing some good ole homemade or unsweetened (preferably grass-fed) yogurt on a regular basis then you should start. First of all, don’t try to tell me that the neon colored, artificially flavored stuff that comes in pretty packaged little cups on top is yogurt. If you do then I will be forced to tell you that you are a victim of marketing. Any probiotic they manage to package in those little containers can’t stand a chance of doing you very good when competing against the LOADS OF SUGAR they contend with. Seriously, have you checked the sugar content on your yogurt cup lately? Yikes! I confess I do stir a tiny teaspoon of raw honey into my yogurt but that is like comparing apples to oranges. My tiny teaspoon of unprocessed honey doesn’t hold a candle to the 21 grams of high fructose corn syrup in commercial yogurt. Probiotics are an essential for anyone dealing with a chronic illness or anyone trying not to ever have to deal with a chronic illness. You’re immune systems capitol building is housed in the gut. It needs those beneficial bacteria crawling around to prevent all sorts of calamity in that central place of power that might trickle down through the chain of command into the most lowly of immune functions.
Never run yourself down until your out of spoons.
This has to be the hardest one because lets face it, life happens. As spoonies during the viral invasions of the season we have to say no a bit more in order not to set our bodies up for failure. If we schedule and commit ourselves right down to our last spoons or end up realizing our day has taken more spoons than we planned for, we end up slamming into a wall and the immune system completely loses its ability to perform effectively against those bugs trying to gain a foothold. We have to plan for extra spoons at the end of the day a bit more diligently. Nothing says I want to be sick like a spoonie that didn’t save their spoons during flu season. So turn down that extra night out, or say no to the volunteer committee, whatever it takes to keep you well away from the “wall slam” of being spoonless.
I realize that this list could go on and on with great tips and resources for maintaining our health during this flu season. I didn’t even broach the subject of vitamin C, D, or other natural supplements and remedies that can easily be done to help ward off illness. As I mentioned, a few of these are clearly no-brainers but that doesn’t mean they are easy to do. We all know we should take time to relax and de-stress but that doesn’t mean we are doing it. So I hope my four weeks of unladylike hacking are a grave warning to you and this post a light-hearted encouragement to take care of yourself during cold and flu season. You are a wonderful human being and the world needs you at your best!
Have you already been sick this season? How did you cope? And if not, how have you managed it? Would love to hear from you in the comments!