After any vacation or other out-of-state adventure getting sick is never a surprise, since having lupus makes me more susceptible to getting sick. It is a likely risk any time I am away from home, and the best precautions may not prevent post-adventure illnesses after vacations or business travel. Alas, at the tail end of my recent trip and “grandma adventures” I came down with a whopping head cold.
Lupus and Reduced Immune System Effectiveness
Could I have prevented getting sick? Possibly, but there is no guarantee that my best efforts would be effective. My hunch about the source of my little “bug” was the sneezing nail technician who did my pedicure, answering “allergies, allergies” when I asked if she had a cold. Maybe I caught it in a store, or shaking hands at church or hugging family at the wedding I attended. Who knows? It could have come from my grandchildren, but they are too little and cute to blame, so I am going with the “allergies” gal. I will never know, and since the CDC does not research the source of common head colds, I am stuck with this small mystery unsolved.
The Lupus Foundation of America explains that “an individual with lupus is more susceptible to infection than most people for two reasons:
- Lupus directly affects a person’s immune system and reduces his or her ability to prevent and fight infection.
- Many of the drugs used to treat lupus suppress the function of the immune system and leave the body more prone to infection.”
Natural Cold Prevention Strategies
I love to read “Real Simple” magazine, and it is one of the two magazines I download monthly on my Nook Tablet. Their article from last November, 6 Natural Cold-Prevention Strategies, by Elizabeth Wells was published in the midst of last year’s cold and flu season. She outlines the following steps as measures to help prevent getting sick:
- Sleep – the medical director of a Phoenix hospital explains that adequate sleep regulates the release of immune supporting cortisol hormones
- Exercise – university research demonstrated that moderate exercise can increase immune function
- A hot-and-cold shower – a naturopathic doctor suggests how temperature fluctuations may “jump-start” the immune system
- Zinc – the author explains how zinc is commonly known to support and enhance the immune system and suggests dietary and other sources
- Vitamin D – the Archives of Internal Medicine report says vitamin D as essential to help regulate the immune system
- Nasal Rinse – the Phoenix doctor also explains how “daily saline rinse helps sweep bacteria, viruses, and irritants from the respiratory tract”
After Catching a Head Cold
When I do get sick, especially because I also have asthma and allergies, my goal is to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of every respiratory infection. So, what were my cold battle strategies during my recent trip? I have to admit I didn’t do very well in the prevention of the cold. I didn’t get quite enough sleep, seldom exercised, didn’t even think about taking hot/cold contrast showers, didn’t take extra zinc, and didn’t do a nasal rinse when the cold started. Too bad I read the cold prevention article after I got home!
About the only thing suggested in the article that I did do was take my daily multivitamin and prescribed daily vitamin C, Vitamin D and calcium supplements. However, I did some other helpful things to prevent the cold from turning into deeper infections in my sinuses and lungs: I used my asthma inhalers at maximum dosage, started taking an effective nasal decongestant, used a decongestant nasal spray, took acetaminophen to ease discomfort, forced fluids, and increased my daily prednisone dose just enough to prevent asthma attacks the cold had triggered.
Keeping my sinuses and airways open helped me be more comfortable and minimized the extent of the head cold until I could get home and see my doctor. My doctor endorsed all the steps I took, and also prescribed an antibiotic after assessing the scope of my respiratory infection. After the cold gets in check, my doctor asked me to taper my prednisone back down to the maintenance dose.
A Worthless Souvenir
Upon reflection, I am happy to say that I’ve been fairly free of respiratory infections in the past six months (and that one was also after a trip!) I suppose could have gotten up and walked out of the nail salon, but decided to believe the “allergies” response. The take away? It is always nice to bring a souvenir home from vacation, but it’s really too bad I couldn’t resist this one! Next time, maybe I’ll opt for a key chain instead.