Protect yourself during cold and flu season
As a Health Educator for the Lupus Foundation of America, I get dozens of calls each year during the winter season from people with lupus worried about themselves or family members catching a virus or developing an infection.
When you have lupus, you have to be careful to protect yourself from viruses because they have the potential to not only make you feel horrible from the illness itself, but to cause a flare or increased activity of your lupus, providing a double whammy. The use of strong immune suppressants may put some of you at an even higher risk for contracting a virus. This is because the goal of lupus treatment is to suppress your immune system so that it does not produce auto (self) antibodies that cause lupus symptoms.
When your immune system is suppressed, you have the potential for increased chances of catching viruses and infections.
So how can you best try to avoid a cold or the flu? A good place to start is to talk to your doctor about your annual flu vaccine. The early reports are that this year’s vaccine formula is a good match for the types of flus that are being reported throughout the United States. You can read more about the annual flu and pneumonia vaccine.
Some simple steps to help lessen the possibility of getting a cold, the flu, or other virus include:
- Avoid anyone—including family members—with symptoms of fever (over 100ºF), nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Specifically, you should avoid close, personal contact, such as hugging, kissing, and shaking hands
- Wash your hands (tops, palms, and fingers) frequently with hot, soapy water for at least 15 seconds.
- Remember that surfaces—especially in bathrooms, on shared office equipment, on store counter tops, gas pump handles, any surface of the car, and in restaurants—can expose you to germs. Keep alcohol-based gel or wipes handy, both out in public and at home.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Use the crook of your arm to shield coughs and sneezing. Do not use your hands or handkerchiefs as they carry moisture that spread viruses.
- Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
- Please remember that you should never discontinue medications used to treat your lupus without first consulting with your doctor.
Dawn E. Isherwood, RN, BSN
Dawn is a former Health Educator for the Lupus Foundation of America. Read Bio