Writer, mother, and home-care nurse. I spend much of my day teaching patients about health, disease process, and the mind-body connection.
Blindsided by the Flu
It’s hard to believe that I have been fighting the flu for two months now. Being a registered nurse in home care exposed to so many different viruses over the years that I somehow thought of myself as immune. I've even gone several years without getting the flu vaccine. I blindly thought that I could somehow escape the path of this virus by my superhuman immunity resistance. Looking back at these thoughts now, I could not have been further from the truth.
I have spent decades teaching my patients how to improve their immune systems to avoid catching the flu. Receiving the flu vaccine was always the first and foremost line of defense. In hindsight, I wish I had heeded my own advice and received the flu vaccine, but I did not, I was foolish. I figured that since I was in great shape, running at least two miles a day, practicing yoga and meditation, that I would somehow be fine.
What follows is a tiny glimpse into two of the worst months of my life, along with some good, sound, basic advice on how to help yourself recover quicker from the flu. Avoid the mistakes that I and countless other sufferers make when our bodies are trying to fight this virus.
Fighting the Good Fight
The first night I had the flu, my body temperature was so high, I could not stop shivering. I instinctively knew then that something was terribly wrong. What followed, were days of severe weakness, achiness in my joints, nausea and an overall feeling of general malaise. Looking back at this time, I feel that the past few years of being in good shape, eating right and exercising helped me to avoid staying in bed all day long, and be semi-functional on most days. Still, I was running a fever every day for at least a week.
The week passed and I started to feel some relief from the fever, and felt my body temperature finally getting back to normal. It was after this, that the dreaded storm of mucus arrived. This mucus first invaded my lungs, and then my sinuses. I lived off decongestants for days until I saw a doctor. By the time I got to her office, I was having difficulty breathing due to the congestion in my lungs and my stuffy nose. To my dismay, she did not order an antibiotic. She prescribed a steroid for my lungs and some cough medication for that nasty cough that had kept me up for nights on end. So I filled the prescriptions and went home to heal.
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Four weeks had passed, and the only thing that changed was that I was finally breathing better, but I still had to deal with the onslaught of havoc that this virus reaped on my sinuses. With popping and ringing in my ears so loud, it kept me up at night, I decided 6 weeks into the flu to revisit the doctor. The doctor suspected it might be a sinus infection, so she prescribed an antibiotic. Finally, I’m going to get rid of this sickness once and for all I thought! Wrong!!
The flu is a virus, which can’t be conquered with an antibiotic, so for the next few weeks, I still had to deal with my sinus headaches, ringing and popping ears, along with the daily deluge of mucus. Only this time, I added nausea back to my list of symptoms because of the nasty side effects of the antibiotic that was prescribed to me.
5 Things I Would Have Done Differently
I would like to tell you that after eight weeks of the flu, I feel 100 percent better, but to be honest, I don’t. It has been a slow climb back to that picture perfect version of health that was once myself eight weeks ago. However, if I had to do it all over again, this is what I would have done differently:
- I would have gotten the flu shot. Many people feel as though the flu shot will give you the flu, but this is simply not true. The flu shot is given to help your body build up antibodies to fight the flu virus, should you come across it. Contrary to what many people believe, the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control the virus that is injected into your body when you get the flu vaccine is not activated. Which means it cannot cause the flu. Side effects are minimal and can include soreness, redness, tenderness and swelling at the injection site. The CDC also mentions other generalized mild side effects such as a low grade fever, headache or muscle aches.
- I would not have decided to stick with my low-carb diet. When your body is fighting a sickness, it needs nutrition from all of the food groups, not just a select few. In an article posted out of the UK on Dailymail.com, they cite a recent survey that demonstrated half of the survey participants took twice as long to recover because they didn’t adjust their eating to suit their ailing body’s needs. This article also covers the importance of eating carbohydrates when you are sick, as they provide energy that your body needs to recover and heal.
- I would have included more whole foods such as fruits and vegetables in my diet. Your body recognizes these whole food sources so much easier than processed foods and can turn these foods into real energy to fight the good fight.
- I would have rested more during the day, especially in the beginning. It seems so simple to do, but with work, family and all of the other countless obligations, it’s hard to carve this time out to just take care of yourself.
- I would have consumed more fluids. Our body is made up of at least 50 percent water, and when it is fighting a virus and raising its temperature, your body tends to dehydrate. Look at your urine as a barometer of how hydrated you are. If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more. Your urine should look like light clear lemonade.
It seems simple, when you look at the list above, but it never ceases to amaze me after two decades of caring for patients, that what matters most is the basics, the food you consume, the fluid you take in and the rest you give yourself. When I look back at those two months, I feel as though I did not place the proper importance of these basic requirements of my body. Had I done so, I would not be writing this article right now to help others avoid traveling down the long road back to health that I have so wearily traveled.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.