Last month, I wrote about taking a sick day when your RA flares. Fortunately, I haven’t had to take too many of those lately, but I have managed to use up a few of my sick days recently due to something all of us experience, especially this time of year: the common cold.
It’s annoying, isn’t it? Apparently, it’s not enough that we have to deal with being sick day-in and day-out with a chronic illness; we also have to deal with the same ordinary onslaughts to our immune systems that everyone else faces. I personally think that having a chronic disease should exempt one from everyday ailments like the cold, the flu and strep throat. A diagnosis of RA or another chronic disease ought to come hand-in-hand with a Get Out of Colds Free card. Unfortunately, the opposite is most often true. For those of us who use DMARD’s and/or biologics to treat our rheumatoid arthritis, the common cold can become even more common since these medications can increase our risk of infection and lower our ability to fight off those pesky, vile viruses.
It’s totally unfair; nonetheless, it’s reality. Rather than sit back and pout about it (or perhaps in addition to?), I like to do all I can to prevent my immune system from having to deal with anything else. I was a flu-shot fan before my immune system went haywire, but I am now a flu-shot fanatic. Come September, my arm is out on the table, fist-clenched and ready, before they can even say ‘roll up your sleeve.’ (To read more about how to protect yourself from the flu, check out Lisa Emrich’s great share post here.)
And I haven’t stopped there: since RA entered my life, I’ve been vaccinated for pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough (which is making a comeback in some regions of the U.S.), and more serious diseases like hepatitis A, tetanus, and typhus. Granted, the latter three were for my travels abroad, but you could say that I’ve become a bit of a vaccine junkie. If there’s one out there and I can have it, I want it. Sadly, due to my meds, live vaccines for diseases like Shingles and Yellow Fever are off limits. I know some people are uncomfortable with vaccines, but since I’ve never had a problem with them, and because all have been recommended by and discussed with my rheumatologist, I’m happy to offer up my arm in the name of prevention. As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman: I’m a safety gal.
In addition to being a living pincushion, I’m a pretty relentless hand-washer. Not to the point of needing an intervention, but I always wash my hands before I eat, after I eat, when I get to work, come home from work, or handle anything really public. I also avoid touching my face as much as possible. I’d rather be a bit of a germa-phobe than end up with snot in my sinuses. I am on a regimen of vitamins, all approved by my medical supersquad, which include Vitamin-C and Zinc, which can help ward off the enemy cold virus. And, while their efficacy may be debatable, I am also a user of homeopathic products that aim to help prevent and/or shorten colds (you should speak with your rheumatologist before using any supplements and/or additional remedies!).