Two hands pushing away germs floating in the air. While the world turns in the background.

Fighting a Cold or Flu While Living with Multiple Sclerosis

I’ve been indoors for two weeks and counting, binge-watching British shows on BritBox, listening to music, and napping. A lot of napping because my fatigue is 24/7 despite any nighttime sleep. Why? I have the flu. Yes, the dreaded, horrible, merciless, terrible-sounding to others, energy-sapping flu.

Having to cancel plans

I’ve had to cancel personal and professional engagements that I’ve been looking forward to.

I’ve also been spending hours by myself in my bedroom except when my husband and son bring my meals. My legs are too weak to walk much, and I don’t want to risk falling down the stairs or passing my germs to them.

Two weeks and one day ago, I went to Walgreens for my annual flu shot but left when there were ten people waiting in line. I left thinking I’d go back the next day, but the next day my flu symptoms hit me like a ton of bricks. In retrospect, it was a blessing that I didn’t get the vaccine, or my symptoms could have been much worse.

Feeling alone

After the initial few days, I was feeling a bit lonely, watching the world carry on without me. Living with MS, this is something we often face. Over the last two weeks I felt more alone than I have in a long time.

Brain fog

My brain is foggier than usual and my concentration is scattered. I’ve been unable to get work done. I see members of my women’s empowerment group carry on, set new goals, meet deadlines, grow their businesses, exchange ideas and engage at meetings. I watch in silence, unable to participate.

There was a song we were taught in elementary school whose lyrics I forget except for two sentences. They came to mind this week:

“And still the world goes rolling on and on. Still, the world goes rolling on.”

As a community, we know too well how the world moves on without us. We know the loneliness, anxiety, and fear when we’re unable to actively participate in life.

Our immune systems don’t fight well for us when we on the receiving end of germs. Certain medications can suppress our systems as well. That’s why it’s important during this season to do what we can to keep germs at bay. Live by the old adage “an ounce of prevention.” Be prepared.

Doctors recommendations

What’s recommended by most doctors is this:

  • Drink plenty of water and other clear fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Eat nutritious foods including chicken soup. Don’t laugh! It really does help.
  • Keep tissues, chicken broth, and homeopathic or over-the-counter medicines on hand.
  • Treat a fever or cough with over-the-counter medicines.
  • Take antiviral medication if your doctor prescribes it.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms persist to make an appointment or seek advice.
  • If MS symptoms flare due to your cold or flu call your doctor immediately.

Vaccines & people with MS

Of course, the first line of defense is to get a flu shot. According to the National MS Society site, studies show that a standard dose is safe for those with MS, but speak with your doctor about it first. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website:

Inactivated vaccines are generally considered safe for people with MS, including those who are taking an interferon medication (Avonex®, Betaseron®, Extavia®, Plegridy®, Rebif®), Aubagio®, Copaxone®, Gilenya®, Glatopa®, Lemtrada®, Novantrone®, Tecfidera® or Tysabri®. Live and live-attenuated vaccines are generally not recommended for people with MS. People on therapies that suppress the immune system, such as Cytoxan®, Imuran®, Novantrone®, Rheumatrex® and/or chronic corticosteroid therapy, should consult their neurologist before taking any live-virus vaccine. A person should not receive a live-virus vaccine following a course of Lemtrada®.

Click here to read more on this subject, including getting the flu shot while you’re on other MS medications.

Keeping germs at home

I think it’s also important to broadcast to everyone outside the MS community on the importance of getting a flu shot or, if not, at least staying home/staying away from those of us living with compromised immune systems. We need to educate the public to think about others who are at greater risk of getting sick. We don’t want their germs, and they should be aware of that.

Kicking the flu to the curb

I know I’ll kick this thing to the curb. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. In the MS community, we’ve learned that we are true warriors who face our struggles with courage, dignity, determination, and resilience. Over and over again!

I hope you stay well this winter and beyond. You are important to me, so if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below.

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