These days I have to take a holiday from work, not when I fancy going abroad (like many people who book holiday), but when my body needs a break.
No one enjoys illness, but nothing frustrates me more than becoming ill with something else when I am trying to recuperate from how endo drains me.
Piling more illness onto our tired bodies
Becoming ill is frustrating. Even if it’s something as simple as the common cold. Not many people without a chronic illness really appreciate how much of a balancing act a chronic illness is. A finite balance. How trying to add more to that careful balance of health and illness – something like a cold – can lead to us feeling worse than the average person.
Something as simple as a cold utterly flattens us. We could be stuck in bed for days, with a fever or temperature unable to move. Someone else has the extra energy (afforded by an otherwise healthy body) might be able to work. They still have the freedom and choice about whether or not to take sick leave to cope with the strain of a cold.
Endometriosis sufferers do not get that choice, and that persons decision to keep working increases the chances that we will get sick, and have to take more precious sick leave.
Endometriosis making things harder again
Also it’s quite rare to get respite from your endometriosis symptoms while you are sick with something else. You’ll still experience endometriosis pain, and fatigue, while you’re trying to cope with this new aspect of illness. As if coping with endometriosis wasn’t hard enough. Another illness on top of that can lead you feeling utterly miserable.
This isn’t helped by the fact that endometriosis still isn’t taken particularly seriously by many doctors not specialised in its treatment. Few understand it beyond the medical definition of the illness. When prescribing treatment many will leave out the day-to-day toil of living with endometriosis, how hard coping with it is, and how it can make you feel.
As such, this lack of awareness of endometriosis means many women are not in high risk groups which allow them to receive free or additional treatment to avoid other seasonal illnesses such as influenza.
So as Autumn draws in (with Winter not long behind) many of us start to dread what the seasons will hold. This is because the fatigue caused by endometriosis causes our bodies to be more susceptible to illness, affecting our bodies ability to combat illness adequately through our natural immune system. We’re all run down and tired, and that’s before other illnesses come into the equation.
Other chronic illnesses
Living with endometriosis means you end up feeling a bit like a venn diagram, because many women with endometriosis share many other underlying conditions. Endometriosis probably isn’t the only condition that we struggle with, because of the high links between endometriosis and other chronic illnesses.
Conditions including, but not excluded to:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What can we do to fight off seasonal illnesses?
Here are some quick tips for how to fend off seasonal illness.
You may not be eligible for free seasonal flu vaccinations through your GP for the reasons discussed above, but I would encourage anyone who is able (and without vaccine allergies) to pay a small fee to receive one. Here in the UK many pharmacies and even supermarket pharmacies provide a cheap seasonal flu vaccine during the Autumn and Winter. This can improve your immunity to flu for up to six months. You’ll need to get a new one every Autumn, so add this to your list of planned treatments for the Winter.
Practice perfect hygiene
This one seems obvious, but keep your hands and body clean and keep a keen eye on the sick people around you. When I spot someone that is unwell or is coming down with something I try to work from home to avoid contact with them. If working from home isn’t an option for you I always keep an alcohol-based gel at home and on my desk (this is the same stuff they have at hospitals) to disinfect your hands. I carry around a small pack of this around with me so I can disinfect my hands again if I come into contact with someone who’s sick.
This isn’t a substitute for washing your hands of course, but should be used in combination – I tend to gel my hands after cleaning them thoroughly.
Don’t slack on your vitamin intake
I’m sure we’re all on a whole host of tablets already, but during the cold times of the year I do my best to keep on top of making sure I’m taking all the vitamin supplements I can to help my body.
Preventative cold medicines
I’ve also had mixed success with preventative cold treatments, such as nasal sprays. These are sprays that you spray into your nose when you feel like you’re coming down with a cold. The idea is that they fend off the symptoms of a cold. So far this year I’ve successfully fought off two colds using this treatment. It’s by no means perfect and doesn’t always work for me, but it’s the difference between getting sick and not being sick so I try it as a last resort.