Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When the Chronically Ill Get Sick

I'm on my third week of an acute respiratory viral infection. As luck would have it, I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled for the day I came down with the virus. For once, I got a two for the price of one visit out of my doctor! Yay me? I'll go into how that visit went in my next post. Today, I want to focus on handling an acute sickness when you're already dealing with one or more chronic illnesses.

On Tuesday a few weeks ago, I woke up with an extremely sore throat. I was concerned that I might be coming down with my oldest daughter's virus (She'd been sick since the previous week.) I was a bit more achey than my usual, too. I went ahead and went to my scheduled doctor's appointment even though I felt too sick to go. I saw the Nurse Practitioner and she did a very thorough exam. She decided that it was probably viral, but that if I wasn't feeling better in a few days I should come back in.

I'm sure I can't be the only chronically ill person whose symptoms get a lot worse with an acute illness. I've had so, so much trouble with fatigue lately, I'm guessing it's part of the autoimmune disease process. Combine autoimmune fatigue with viral fatigue and you have, well I don't know what you have, maybe a Zombie? My husband joked that all he needed to do was turn the TV on and I'd fall asleep. You would have thought I'd have slept all the time, but I didn't. I'd take several small naps during the day and by the time bedtime rolled around, I wouldn't be able to get to sleep. Part of the problem was that I couldn't stop coughing. Plus, I was pretty congested. I hate taking cold medicines because I don't handle them very well; they either hype me up or knock me out and it's never at the right time. Plus, I never know how they'll interact with my other medications. Then, there's the whole having Glaucoma thing (many cold medicines cannot be taken by someone who has Glaucoma.) I did finally break down and take some cough medicine and it helped some. Anyway, I'm pretty sure my inability to get much sleep just prolonged my virus.

Besides the fatigue, my muscle pain and stiffness increased a lot. I ended up taking my pain medication a few times because it was really that bad. But, because I didn't have much of an appetite, I didn't have very much fiber in my diet and that led to OIC. In case you've been hiding under your blankets for the past few months (hey, I'm not judging), OIC is Opiate induced constipation. It was introduced to the country by a pharmaceutical ad which ran during the Super Bowl. It immediately became the subject of insensitive Tweets and Facebook posts. This did nothing for the chronic illness community of  which  many members rely on pain medication to have some sort of a normal life.

So, it goes without saying that I've been a hot mess. An achey, stuffy nosed, constipated mess! With the addition of new symptoms and the magnification of my everyday symptoms, I've yet to return to my baseline. I'm still so weak and that scares me. Every time I get a virus I worry if my setback will be permanent. Will it be my "new normal"? I try not to dwell on it, instead, I put my focus on doing everything I can to get better. That includes drinking plenty of fluids, eating right and getting as much rest as possible.

How do you handle acute illnesses? Do you have a plan in place for dealing with the inevitable viral infections? Please feel free to share. I'm sure there's something we can learn from each other.

In honor of Dr Seuss' birthday, I'll leave you with this gem.

"You're in pretty good shape for the shape you are in" ~Dr Seuss


  1. This is me exactly this week. Sore throat. Lost my voice, but mostly my issue is the fatigue. Ugh. Not cool. Hang in there. I'm just starting to feel a tad better which is making me feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

  2. HI Katie! Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry you're feeling bad. Keep focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. It's there somewhere, I'm sure!

  3. It's the worst when you are chronically ill and get sick on top of that. I barely function on most days, so when I'm sick with something else it completely wipes me out.

    1. It sure is. I think it's hard for those who don't have a chronic illness to understand. I'm sorry you deal with this, too; but I'm glad I'm not alone.