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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • SueK
    13 hours ago

    Been there, done that. Two years ago a nasty strain of flu hit the US killing 19,000 people. Both my husband and I developed it thanks to a co-worker of his that showed up to work ill, spreading the virus throughout the office. We both went from the flu, to bronchitis, bacterial infection and sepsis. My husband developed pneumonia as well. I was spared thanks to having had the vaccine for it. We were ill for over two months. My case was worsened because I am immunocompromised. I am getting the new, broader spectrum pneumonia vaccine today as well. You can be sure we have had the flu vaccines every year since! Best wishes to you. Try a good old fashioned Hot Toddy. If it doesn’t make you feel better, at least you will not care!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    13 hours ago

    How awful for you and your husband and shame on that worker for going to the office in that condition! Why do people do that?

    Thank you for your good wishes and good idea about the pneumonia vaccine. Have a healthy winter!
    Cathy

  • Annabelette
    4 days ago

    I hope you’re on the mend by now. The flu is no fun. If I catch something, I’m sure to be sick for weeks and weeks and go into a lupus flare. My go-to remedies: extra zinc, puréed carrots with lots of butter (a great way to get extra vitamin A to fight any infection), sencha green tea, Kick-Ass Immune (it really does!), rest, rest, and more rest. Get better soon!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    4 days ago

    Thank you and thanks for the GREAT tips, Annabelette!
    Cathy

  • potter
    7 days ago

    I feel for you I got the flu last year and was down and out for the month. I came down with it a couple of days before Christmas. I had gotten my flu shot in October but it didn’t work. It didn’t work for a lot of people that year. Drink your fluids and try to enjoy being lazy. Potter

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    4 days ago

    Thanks so much and hope you stay well this flu season, potter!
    Cathy

  • DelightedHands
    1 week ago

    You articulate the frustration and isolation of getting sick from the flu beautifully. I am in week three of the same symptoms but from the flu shot. Unfortunately, I went to my Neuro after everything feel apart. He said the flu shot is being hard everyone (those with and without MS) this year.
    The live virus was the problem for me; now I know. So, which is worse, flu from a neighbor or from the vaccine?! The struggles are the same, right. Hang in there while we wait for our bodies to recuperate!

  • pfluegera
    1 week ago

    I have a question I’m hoping someone can answer or advise on. I am dealing with this same scenario as this article and I’ve been down for a month and a half now. That is such a long time. Is this “normal”? I’d really appreciate any input or advice or thoughts from anyone. Thanks!

  • KateKelly
    1 week ago

    Hi there. I have had true influenza once in my adult life and it was truly awful. I had to be hospitalized. It came on within four hours and the effects lasted six months. It take a long long time for someone with our problems to get over influenza. I was not in bed for six months…but I wasn’t back to my “normal” for that time period. The specialist who treated warned me that it would take that long. I didn’t believe him. He was right.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    1 week ago

    The only advice I have is to see your doctor like I did. Let them examine you to make sure there isn’t anything else going on. That’s the best advice I have. Good luck to you. I hope you find the answers you need

    Cathy

  • pfluegera
    1 week ago

    When I started reading this I thought maybe you were talking about me I’m going through this exact scenario right now. I’m writing this from my bedroom that I think the walls are closing in on me. Thanks for writing this because it is very lonely at this point and my family thinks I should be “over it” by now. Feeling ill, hurt, misunderstood and a burden. It always still shocks me when I read something that seems like it was written just for me. I’m truly grateful for this community. Thank you

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    1 week ago

    Cathy! I’m sorry for your suffering and for the length of time you’ve been fighting this thing. I know how committed you are to your advocacy work and I hurt for you to have to sit on the sidelines. Feel better soon, my friend.

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    1 week ago

    Kim,

    I am so moved by your stopping by and leaving your lovely comments. We’ve known each other for years now – can you believe it – and we’re in each others corners. SO nice to know you are out there somewhere. In a perfect world we’d live nearby. For now I thank you for your kind comments. I hope you are doing and feeling well, especially during the change of seasons.

    Thanks so much~
    Cathy

  • Froggie
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Cathy-

    I hate that for you! Being sick is no fun, especially with a compromised immune system. My husband has end stage COPD and is on Oxygen 24/7, so I have to be doubly vigilante. I’m not a germaphobe by nature, but I am well aware of how unsanitary a lot of others are. The can of Lysol spray is my best friend at home!

    Get well soon!

  • Janus Galante moderator
    1 week ago

    Hi Froggie,
    how my heart goes out to both you and your husband.
    Having to be hyper vigilante is a full time job!
    You’re right. Lysol, shopping cart wipes, anything is a help!

  • georgi54
    2 weeks ago

    I have been there. I seem to get bronchitis very easily and despite everything I do, it takes a month to get over. Over the years I average about 3 times a year with hospitalization a couple of times. The flu shot doesn’t help. I don’t know what else to say except you are not alone. This is a mean disease at times.

  • Janus Galante moderator
    1 week ago

    Hi georgi,
    Yes, bronchitis on top of having m.s. As if having the m.s. in and of itself isn’t bad enough!
    I hope that this year will be different for you and you can get through it with no bronchitis. (Or anything else!!)
    Stay well! Janus

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    Truly sorry for your struggles. I hope this season will be an easier one for you. Thanks for leaving your comments, George.
    Cathy

  • Janus Galante moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Cathy,
    ughh, I wish I were there to make you some homemade chicken soup and give you a hug!
    It’s ironic that I should read this just now as we are on our way to Walgreens this morning to get flu shots.
    Hope you start feeling much better soon!

  • Cathy Chester moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    How very kind of you! Good for you for taking care of yourself by getting the shot. Stay well! Cathy

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