Aftermath of an upper respiratory infection
January 19, 2015 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I've been having the upper respiratory infection from hell for more than a week, and have two questions about the aftermath.

One, is how I could've been so vulnerable, and what I can do to fix it. I had a flu shot in November. I'd been eating proper food, getting enough sleep, not overstressed, washing my hands after being on public transit, plus I'd had some nice downtime over the holidays. But this thing just swooped in and felled me like a Viking with an axe, and I can see I'm not going to feel normal again for at least another week.

So much woo is talked about immune systems, nutrition and so forth that I cannot tell what I should change, if anything, or if this just sometimes happens and you have to cope. But I'm not young and I've had plenty of flu and colds and so on before, but never something that totally knocked me down like this has done. (Yes, saw the doc. Yes, got meds.)

The other question is more concrete. After an episode like this, they say you should get a new toothbrush, which makes perfect sense. I'm going to wash and dry my towels and bedding on the hottest setting. What else should I consider so that I don't risk re-infecting myself? (I live alone, so I'm not putting anyone else at risk.)
posted by zadcat to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You seem like you're doing all the right things. The only thing I'd add to that list is making sure you're keeping your environment humid. The dry air in the winter is one of the reasons people get more colds then, you become more susceptible. Here's more reading: Mayo Clinic, Science Daily.
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

if this just sometimes happens and you have to cope

It does, yeah. Taking public transit probably puts you at a higher risk. Any time I travel via plane there's about a 60% likelihood I'll get a cold after.
posted by something something at 8:05 AM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you had a virus, you probably won't reinfect yourself, because you've become immune due to the antibodies already in your system.

If it's a strong virus, no matter how healthy you are, you'll get sick. So there aren't any heroic measures to take per se, just do what you've been doing.

Weirdly, Husbunny got a horrible flu right before Christmas. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary and I didn't get sick. Sometimes it happens that way.

So be sure to continue to hydrate yourself, rest and eat well. You're still weak and may be vulnerable to OTHER viruses lurking about, so keep hand washing and try not to touch surfaces that are touched by a bazillion people. (Hand rails, doorknobs, grocery carts.)

Feel better!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:05 AM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Bad luck. You don't say if you had the flu, but if it wasn't, obviously the flu shot wouldn't help. And even if it was the flu, the vaccine this year is apparently only 23% effective. You aren't going to reinfect yourself - that's what antibodies are for. In addition to washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, never touch your face. Even if you are the perfect germaphobe though, everyone gets sick sometime.
posted by cecic at 8:06 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Whatever it is that's going around this year ran through my company (two offices in two states, no physical contact) like a brush fire - one in each state with pneumonia, 3 with sinus infections (2 of which required 2 rounds of antibiotics), and every one of us commented on how brutally it took us out, even the young'uns in their 20s and early 30s. I think I got the least sick and I still didn't make it out of my bed to the couch for 3 days.

My husband didn't get it. He almost never gets sick, though.

I don't know if this was a virus, but even if it was it's not still going to be alive on your textiles. I think it was just a nasty thing that went around via the usual vectors and everyone who got it went down hard.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:08 AM on January 19, 2015

This has been an unusually bad year for illness. The flu shot isn't so effective, as cecic says, and there's a cold variant going on that leaves you with an eight-week lingering cough, too. You do your best with preventive measures, but just like wearing a seat belt and driving carefully doesn't mean you'll never get into a car accident, so washing your hands et al doesn't guarantee you'll never get sick.
posted by Andrhia at 8:23 AM on January 19, 2015

Nthing that there are a couple of horrific viruses making the rounds this year and they are just steamrollering people not used to getting steamrollered. Our family, and other families I know, was decimated over the holidays with multiple hospitalizations and more near-hospitalizations.

Hand washing removes a large percentage of viruses but that percentage is not 100.
posted by telepanda at 8:29 AM on January 19, 2015

Might want to see a doctor about testing your vitamin D levels. You could be low. Here is an article that talks about some studies that concern Vitamin D's role in the immune system: (Scroll down to see the paragraph about Vitamin D and protective immunity)
posted by oxisos at 8:47 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

You don't have to go through a big sterilization process. Now you have antibody protection against what you just had. You won't reinfect yourself.

I trained myself to not absentmindedly touch my eyes, nose, mouth, face as that's usually how you gets bugs you picked up into your system.
posted by quince at 9:06 AM on January 19, 2015

Response by poster: > You don't say if you had the flu, but if it wasn't, obviously the flu shot wouldn't help.

I mentioned that mostly to indicate that I was already acting to protect myself from seasonal illnesses. Even the doctor wasn't certain whether this is flu, although since I haven't been running a fever she thought it unlikely.

> Might want to see a doctor about testing your vitamin D levels.

D is the only supplement I ever take, and only in wintertime. But I'll keep that in mind.

Thanks all for your suggestions.
posted by zadcat at 2:14 PM on January 19, 2015

I just saw my immunologist last week and he got after me about taking a probiotic. He said most of our immunity is in the gut. He recommended Floragen(jen?) but said whichever brand I chose should be refrigerated. It sounds like you're doing everything else right. Feel better soon!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:02 PM on January 19, 2015

Best answer: zadcat, I understand your feelings. I am just now feeling a little better after nine days straight of this strange flu. My illness included a daily headache that was very migraine-like. Usually Alleve works fine for me..but it didn't even come close to helping. Day before yesterday I felt like hanging myself! So, yes, I can understand why you don't want to repeat your illness either! Hopefully, this is all going to be a dim memory for both of us in a short while.
posted by naplesyellow at 2:11 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had the flu thing too -- got a flu shot and all, but this hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm mostly okay now, but the lingering cough is driving me insane.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:32 PM on January 21, 2015

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