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I'm a mom, a wife, a best friend. Sick with CFIDS/ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia since 1975 as a result of a nasty flu while still in grad school, it wasn't until the late '80's that I received a diagnosis. Until that flu I'd never really been ill before. With each year I get progressively worse and add to the bucket load of symptoms I'm living with. I've been blessed with an incredible family and best friend who've stayed with me through my struggles as we continue to find a way out of this monstrous illness and its complications. We've tried seemingly every approach to find my way back to health. Often I think our best weapon in this undesirable and unasked-for adventure has been laughter.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Tidbits: Staying Safe from the Flu

Visions of people around the country wanting to be admitted to hospitals have haunted our newscasts in the last few days as "the flu" spreads at a maddening pace. There is footage of doctors, as well as patients, wearing face masks in ER's and the worst footage is perhaps MASH-type tents being set up outside at least one hospital I saw on TV. The flu season is in full swing on steroids, even though calendar-wise, flu season is just really beginning.  Those viruses out there have swept the country in unanticipated numbers, catching everyone off guard, it appears.  People who don't normally get flu shots, though they make sure that their children and elderly parents do, are running to get those flu shots now, hoping for the best.

What is the CFIDS/ME/CFS patient to do?  Most of us have compromised immune systems. I know I do.  Often it feels as if all anyone in my family needs to do is look at me crossed-eyed and I'll come down with everything but the Bubonic Plague, and there are days when I wouldn't be at all surprised if that happened to me as well, especially with my glowing record of health lately. (Yes, the cellulitis IS getting better but I can tell that this cruddy thing has wiped me out.)

I, personally, can't afford to get the flu shot.  I've had it more than once (idiot that I am, I'm always game, thinking surely I over-reacted last time!) with disastrous results.  So, what's a person with a compromised immune system to do short of living in a plastic bubble - often something I almost fear I'm getting perilously close to doing myself? (Joke?)

Here are some tips which I follow.  Some are a bit (?) unorthodox.  Some are obvious.  All will keep you as healthy as you can be, if you're able to "live" with them.  I happen to be of a "most" severely ill CFIDS/ME/CFS patient, so you yourself need to decide how far you have to go to get through the flu season as safely as possible.

  1. Don't make appointments for anything but the most vital of doctor visits. I was supposed to see my endocrinologist the other day and he canceled with an emergency. I think that may have been a blessing in disguise.  Despite all the problems I'm now experiencing, I'm not sure I need to add flu to them, so when we reschedule, it'll probably be for mid-March or April 1st, our usual time, when all danger of my catching most bugs is past. (April 1st: don't you just love my sense of humor?  But it's the usual day my new doctor appointments normally begin!)
  2. Don't go to the dentist until flu season is over!  My own dentist has more or less kept me to that "pact," not allowing me to schedule teeth cleaning, dental work that seems necessary but really can wait, despite my "I just can't take it anymore" attitude at weak moments.  He's seen and heard what happens to me during flu season (heck, even non-flu season is a risk) and won't allow me to be scheduled.  (Have I mentioned that I love the guy?)
  3. This is NOT the time to be going to movies, and I say this despite my love of the Oscars and, that as I type this, The Film Critics Awards are on.  Talk about a breeding ground for germs and everything else under the sun!  I thought about trying a matinee but realized how really stupid that would be in my case.  So, nix the movies until this flu has been gotten under control, at the very least.
  4. IF you have to go to see your doctor for anything that's earth-shattering, you may want to consider my very strange, but effective, strategy.  I've had enough of waiting rooms and getting ill.  So, hubs goes and sits in my place and I sit in the car with my Kindle and we wait separately.  When it's my turn he comes out to get me from the car, I come in through the back entrance, bypassing the dreaded waiting room and though I haven't had the nerve to Lycol my way in, it may come to that.  I'm still coming down with too many health problems after seeing my GP or any doctor for that matter.
  5. Wear gloves if possible, in order to stay safe from door handles, and other places that lurk without you suspecting them.  Stop the shopping!  Do you realize how many people have touched those items in the store before you?
  6. Do NOT allow your friends or family to use your cell phone. There's no need to get that close to anyone's phone any longer.
  7. If need be, start a fashion trend of your own and wear a face mask if you're going to the mall, etc. (Not that you should be, but it's your health at stake.)  I've looked at footage of the Japanese in the past and thought, why in the world don't we wear face masks on the street, in malls, etc.?  I think this might be the year to start this movement here in the States.  (I know, I know.  It's never going to happen but a girl can dream!)
  8. Do not shake hands with people and do not give real hugs to people!  My GP almost fell over when I wouldn't shake his hand when the swine flu was a real threat.  Then I found out he'd had a few cases and *I* almost fell over.  I wanted to escape as quickly as I could haul myself out of there!
  9. Washing your hand with soap and water is best, I think, but since that's not always possible, carry hand sanitizer with you if you want/need to go out. The normal ones out there are fine but if you can't tolerate them, Jurlique makes a wonderful moisturizing one, for a more "natural" and gentler formula and for softer hands.  It's available at Beauty.com or Sephora.  Any other sanitizers are available from the drugstore.com website, so there's no need to stop at the CVS or wherever you get those sorts of products.  And I always love to read the customer reviews.  Shipping is free with a $25 minimum order.
  10. Try to get everyone around you to cough into their elbows. I admit this would be great for me to master, but old dog that I am, I've not been able to master this new trick.  It's a good thing I don't go out!  (Or maybe it's precisely BECAUSE I don't go out that I've not formed this "new" habit.)
  11. And finally, when you get home, walk to the nearest sink and wash your hands immediately.  Then strip down and get on clean (germ and virus-free) clothes as fast as you can.
  12. Try cracking your windows at home open a tiny bit to let in the fresh air and sweep out the stale, germ and virus-laden air which can't help getting in the house from those who live with you.
A final thought: keep in mind what the rules are for a new-born baby visit in the hospital if you're not sure what procedures need to be observed.  Washing hands before seeing a new-born, check.  Covering your clothes before touching a new-born, check.  You get the picture!  Keep that in mind and you'll hopefully survive intact.

And here's hoping that everyone stays safe.  No, I won't be one of those getting the flu shot, but I have good reason not to.  Do you have questions?  CALL your doctor and see if you can get information from him/her as to whether you need to be seen or not.  Consider calling an ER before going over, if you think you need to be seen.  Often things just need to run their course and going to an ER can lead you to unneeded exposure to bugs you'd be best staying away from!  Again, talk to health professionals - especially those doctors who know you best - so that they can lead you in the right direction.

Here's hoping that all are doing their best, only better.  Stay safe everyone.  Ciao and paka!

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