MS & Immune Health

MS & Immune Health

The Dreaded Cold

I hate getting sick. This last weekend Luke came down with a cold, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to avoid this one. Sure enough, a day or two later both Mitchell and I came down with a cold. Want to know the worst part about getting sick while pregnant? You have to fight it without medication. Dayquil, Nyquil, and Cough Drops are all off the table. I could take some low dose Tylenol, but seriously, what is the point? 

Honestly, I sort of pride myself on the fact that I don’t catch too many colds and I seem to stay fairly healthy throughout the year. The year that the swine flu was a big deal, my roommate was the first in my house to catch it, and I somehow came out unscathed.  But, trying to stay healthy comes at a cost. For those who don’t know me, or for friends who haven’t figured it out yet, I am a germaphobe. I know that to some degree being a germaphobe has helped keep me healthy during cold and flu season. But, being a germaphobe comes with its own ups and downs. Sometimes I am pretty sure I offend people if they notice my “odd” behavior or anxiety if they are sick or getting over a cold. Many people don’t understand why someone freaks out over a little cold. But, honestly, I can’t figure out if I just get hit harder with colds or if they just bother other people less. There are other times, that in order to be polite or to try to appear normal, I just have to deal with the situation that is germy and bothers me and pray that I don’t end up getting sick later. Over the years, and being married to Mitchell, I have let go of a lot of my germaphobe habits. He is not a germaphobe and doesn’t think about germs the same way that I do. I know being married has been eye-opening in this aspect to both of us. Mitchell is now aware of what types of things make me anxious and can tell when I am bothered by germs. I am also aware that people don’t think about germs the way I do and don’t even realize that they could be spreading them. They aren’t trying to be mean, they are just going about life. I also feel very fortunate that I have friends that have learned about my fear of colds and often will warn me or ask me if I still want to hang out with them when they are sick. I am aware that having kids may impact my good health record, and bring more germs into my home, but now more than ever, it is going to be important for me to stay as healthy as possible. Who knew that one day I would get an autoimmune disease and my germaphobe ways might benefit me?

Immune Boosters and MS

A few days ago, I was desperately hoping to find something to help lessen the length and severity of my cold. I had a friend recommend Elderberry and when I went to go buy some there was a warning label for people with autoimmune diseases. I knew that people with autoimmune diseases were more at-risk during cold and flu season, but I didn’t know why. I started doing some research on why they are more at risk and why there is a warning label on a product like Elderberry.

Did you know that it is not recommended for people with Multiple Sclerosis or other autoimmune diseases to take immune-boosting supplements? That would mean that items like Elderberry, Airborne, Emergency-C, Zicam, etc. are off-limits.  I have always been really bad about taking these immune boosters on any sort of regular basis, but sometimes when I feel a cold coming on, I will try anything. I actually wasn’t even 100% positive Elderberry was safe during pregnancy, turns out it isn’t recommended. But, what really surprised me was that a supplement that is supposed to be a natural immune booster wouldn’t be safe for me even if I wasn’t pregnant.

Of course, when I started doing some research, it made sense, but I hadn’t really thought about it much beforehand. When you have an autoimmune disease, your body’s immune system is confused and goes on the attack even when you are healthy. In my case, it would attack my central nervous system. The immune system is already overly excited to attack, therefore, if I were to take supplements to boost or help my immune system, it might think it needs to start attacking and cause an MS relapse.  Therefore, it is cautioned for those who have MS or autoimmune diseases to be careful what supplements and vitamins they are taking to “boost” their immune system.

Weak Immune Systems

Did you also know that people with autoimmune diseases are also more susceptible to catching the cold and flu? People who are taking disease-modifying therapies or medication to help lessen the impact of their relapses or symptoms are usually taking medication that suppresses their immune system. Many of these medications are to help encourage the immune system to “settle down” in order to not attack the healthy and necessary ways for their body to function. But, this makes it easier to catch viruses and harder to get rid of them. Of course, it can also lead to more complications when people taking immunosuppressive drugs do get sick, or cause someone with an autoimmune disease to relapse.

So, all that to say, if you are someone who debates or hates getting the flu shot, I would strongly encourage you to reevaluate your position on them. I don’t really care what your reason to not get one is, but by passing the flu along we are hurting those around us that are fighting cancer, battling autoimmune diseases, pregnant women, newborns, elderly, and more.

The next time that you have a cold or flu, reconsider how quickly you go out into the public and spread your germs. Try to wash your hands often and be quick to cover your mouth, with your elbow, when you sneeze or cough. If you are desperate to get out of your house (I know I was this past week), just try to be extra cautious and sit farther away from people, avoid shaking their hands or breathing on them. Not only with all of your germaphobe friends thank you, but those of us with weaker immune systems or the inability to fight viruses the same way will be very appreciative.