Picking Up Colds in Public Places

Patient Expert

I’m a homebody...

It’s no big secret that I don’t get “out” much. I’m a work-at-home writer and musician who has practically everything she needs within a few dozen steps. I’m not sure that I’m truly missing out on too much because I frequently find public spaces to be overstimulating (except that I love that overstimulation when I’m in the middle of it playing my horn). The most common places I frequent on a regular basis, however, include the grocery store, doctors’ offices, and local restaurants.

I usually dread doing things like going shopping at the mall or being in large crowds. Overstimulation aside, there’s another reason that I avoid spending too much time in busy public places. People are often sick and the world is covered in germs. Ok, so that’s two reasons.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a germaphobe. I just notice a very predictable pattern to going out into the world. About two days after I’ve been on a public outing, I notice that my lymph nodes become slightly swollen and my sinuses may start dripping down the back of my throat. The effect is not terrible, but it does have me reaching for extra vitamins and OTC medication.

Dealing with a reduced immune system

A number of the medications I take work to reduce the immune system and a potential side-effect is frequent infections. Because of this, and the fact that I teach several children (frequently carriers of all the viruses that spread through the schools), I’ve worked with my students’ parents to encourage them to cancel lessons if the child has been sick, has had a fever within 24 hours, stayed home from school, or otherwise isn’t feeling well enough to be able to concentrate during the lesson.

Also, it is standard procedure that all piano students wash their hands with soap and water BEFORE touching my piano keyboard to try to further reduce the spread of germs. Some students and parents have taken this more seriously than others and I’ve had to crack down on kids who simply disregarded my instructions. I’ve also taught the children to never cough or sneeze on the teacher or the piano keyboard. Ever.

Lucky to never really get sick

Although I don’t enjoy the post-public nasal drip, swollen throat, and occasional sneezes, coughs, and headaches, I am thankful to know that these symptoms don’t last long. I rarely ever get truly sick.

Lots of extra rest and fluids are my first go-to treatments. Increasing my vitamin intake seems to be very helpful. Fever reducers help lower body temperature, and if they are truly needed, decongestants and antihistamines are good to have available.

One thing I find interesting is that it seems that there are a number of people within the MS community who report that they never seem to get sick either. Like me, they might experience an almost-a-cold that never really develops. I don’t know why that may be.

What’s your experience living with an autoimmune disease? Do you pick up colds more easily after being out-and-about? Or do you seem to avoid most of the nasty viruses that travel around your community?

Please share your story in the comments below.

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