impact of respiratory virus infections on persons with chronic underlying conditions

The ABCs of Disability – The Letter V

Oh Crap!  I’m getting another cold!    AKA “V” is for virus.

I’ve started writing this early on Sunday morning so hopefully this post will make sense when I’m done.  Sorry for any mistakes you’ll find.  I’ll probably post this on Tuesday.  Well, that’s my plan.  My sleep has been screwed up for the past month since my last cold.  I’ve been going to sleep later and later and now it’s normal for me to fall asleep anywhere between 4 and 6 in the morning.  A few times it’s even been 8 or 9 in the morning. I’ve tried to get back to my normal time of around midnight, but no such luck yet.

I naturally wake up around 8 or 9 am.  So now, my night’s sleep is only a few hours.   I’ve tried napping in the day, not napping till I go to bed, napping in the evening…all for naught.   And, add some hot flashes to the mix, just for good measure.  Which can only mean one thing.  I’ve been stressing my body so much due to inconsistent and irregular sleep that I’ve now caught a cold.

I hate having colds now.  Before chronic illness entered my life, I would get a cold and take whatever medication seemed best.  The cold was usually gone in a week or so, sometimes less.  I rarely had to take time off from work.  Just one of life’s minor inconveniences as the colds never developed into anything further.

As for the flu, I got that even less.

But, the irony of it all, it was a flu virus that started me with my new life with chronic illness.

Thankfully, I still don’t get the flu that often.  But, I also get a flu shot each year.  What I do get each winter is, on average, 4 colds.  But, they’re different for me now.  My body loves tormenting me, making sure I understand what’s coming.  I’ll start off with a scratchy or sore throat.  Maybe get that achy feeling.  This lasts a few days.  Then the symptoms go away and I start to feel better.

As you can see, my colds are big, big teases.  Colds are also labelled  acute illnesses.  There is nothing cute about them.

About a week afterwards, I get the cold, full force.  And it doesn’t go away within the week like they used to.  No, mine now stick around for a couple of weeks.  So, at the very least, January,February and March I have a cold, am getting a cold or getting over a cold.  And at some point in the fall I usually have one.

Our bodies are already stressed, tired and depending on your illness, your immune system could already be compromised.  Getting a seasonal virus just amps the stress levels.   It could also lead to more complications and illnesses.  For example, colds add more stress to an already stressed body in diabetics affecting their blood sugar levels.  If a person has heart disease, and if there is complications such as a lung infection, the heart has to work harder because the person is not getting as much oxygen as efficiently as before the virus.

Here’s the link to the WebMD article “Colds and Chronic Medical Conditions” where I got the two previous examples.   The second page of the article has different tips on preventing colds if you have a chronic medical condition.

By the by, my favourite tip?  Regular exercise.  Because that’s what many of us with chronic illness can do on a regular basis.  (OK, snarky part is over.)

I also found an article from 2000 in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) called Impact of Respiratory Virus Infections on Persons With Chronic Underlying Conditions.  It confirms what we already know.  If you have a chronic illness, you are more likely to have complications.  And not surprisingly,  your level of income is also a deciding factor.  Here’s the results and the first paragraph of conclusions from the article:

Results Ninety-three percent of patients older than 5 years had a chronic underlying condition; a chronic pulmonary condition was most common. Patients with chronic pulmonary disease from low-income populations were hospitalized at a rate of 398.6 per 10,000, almost 8 times higher than the rate for patients from middle-income groups (52.2 per 10,000; P<.001). Of the 403 patients (44.4% of adults and 32.3% of children) who submitted convalescent serum specimens for antibody testing, respiratory tract virus infections were detected in 181 (44.9%). Influenza, parainfluenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections accounted for 75% of all virus infections.

Conclusions Our study suggests that respiratory virus infections commonly trigger serious acute respiratory conditions that result in hospitalization of patients with chronic underlying conditions, highlighting the need for development of effective vaccines for these viruses, especially for parainfluenza and RSV.

So, take care of yourselves, folks.  If you do find yourself with a virus, you know the drill.  Get some rest, plenty of fluids and the appropriate medication.  However, please be careful and know what’s in your over-the-counter medication.  You don’t want to do something like take a couple of  extra-strength Tylenol and then sip on a Neo Citron which also has the equivalent of one extra-strength Tylenol.

And remember, it’s already the middle of winter.  We’re half way through cold and flu season.

Then we can start to celebrate allergy season.