Advice on recovering from (mild?) pneumonia
November 22, 2018 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I had pneumonia for a while. I think not too bad as pneumonia goes. I seem to be recovering. I’ve heard stories about people having weeks, or months, of fatigue after this illness, and needing tons of rest. I’m not sure if that’ll happen to me, but it worries me. I’ve been advised (by online sources, and my doctor) to not push too hard. But I’m not sure what that means. I’m curious what I might expect, and what I should do, as I recover, and how to ease back into regular life.

After a couple weeks of horrible coughing and chest pain, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. As pneumonia goes, I think my case was not terrible. I didn’t have a fever. I was able to sleep nights. I could get up and do stuff.

Now, about 3 and a half weeks after the initial onset of really bad symptoms, and after a couple of courses of antibiotics, most of the chest/lung symptoms are gone. There’s still some fatigue, which was bad at first, but seems to be getting better.

I’m looking for tips on how to ease back into regular life, hearing how this went for you if you experienced it. (Bonus for any advice backed by evidence).

For some background: I’m a 50-year old man generally in good health. (I eat well, exercise regularly, have no serious health problems). I’m self-employed, which sort of means I have some flexibility in how I spend my time, but also means I can’t easily just “call in sick” and let other people take over. I also have a pre-schooler, in daycare.

My general approach through the illness has been: I continue to work, but on a sort of reduced schedule. I do the stuff that really needs to be done, and try and take more time to rest.

Some questions/challenges:

- The general advice (from my doctor and what I’ve read) seems to be “Don’t do more than you can”. But I find that guideline very fuzzy and a bit confusing. How do I know what’s too much?

- My fatigue was pretty bad for a while. Now seems a fair bit better the past day or two. Does this suggest I’m out of the woods, or does the fatigue come and go?

- I’m not sure how to tell if I’m fatigued and need to rest. It’s sometimes hard for me to sort “I feel fatigued, so I should rest” from “I feel depressed/discouraged/anxious from having been sick for so long or from lying around all day, so I should get up and do something”

- It’s hard clearing my schedule. I have lots of stuff I need to do. It’s very hard to find time to rest. And “find time to rest” sort of starts to feel like one more to-do item.

- What happens if you don’t rest enough at this stage of things? Does it actually matter? Will it put my health at risk?

- When I try to take time to rest, I feel like I’m shirking/malingering (both around work, and around domestic and child care). This feeling gets worse the longer it goes on. I mean – in my normal life I’m sometimes tired, but I do stuff anyhow.

- After nearly a month of being pretty sick, a lot of tasks have built up, a lot of projects have fallen behind schedule, etc. I’m curious on any advice on dealing with all that backlog.

- What about exercise? How/when to start again? It feels lousy to go so long without exercise.

- How to I know when I’m well enough to do stuff?

Really: I’m just looking for any tips/strategies/ideas/encouragement for dealing with recovery from an illness like this.

posted by ManInSuit to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have swallowing issues that have caused many acute cases of pneumonia over the last several years. Other than that, all the usual caveats apply about not being a/your doctor.

I'd recommend buying a cheap oxygen meter from your local drug store. If you're feeling fatigued, check your oxygen level, just to be sure you're getting enough oxygen. That more than anything is what causes my fatigue. It takes time for your lungs to heal up and if you're looking for some kind of measure of how you're doing, this is decent. Anything over 90% is fine. Below, sit down and take a rest.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:55 AM on November 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have had many bouts of pneumonia since childhood. My last bout was in graduate school. A friend casually mentioned to me that there was a general lung ailment vaccination for a compendium of bugs. I had never heard of this vaccination until then. I went straight to a clinic and got the vaccination for ten dollars. I have not had pneumonia for thirty years since. Get the vaxxxx if you can.

Rest helps your immune system heal you. This is some of the most important short term organic work you can do to make your long term intellectual work possible. There's a short TedEd animated sequence on YouTube published in the last year if you need the data to ease the guilt about "doing nothing". Your Tcells are not resting.

Keep your lungs hydrated with a humidifier. Pneumonia is hard on the little air sacs that line your lungs. Dry air provides a difficult environment for healing.

Drink hot liquids to encourage mucus flow, and a scarf at your neck will keep the air warm and mucus flowing.

Repopulate your gut track with beneficial flora and fauna. The medicine taken for pneumonia can kill them, there are a lot of good probiotic choices.

I hope some of this is helpful. Feel better soon.
posted by effluvia at 9:41 AM on November 22, 2018

Aim to get lots of gentle movement. You don't want to do nothing but lie immobile or sprint around frantically. You want to build stamina.

Watch your posture. Often post pneumonia people develop asthmatic symptoms so watch for that too.

Prioritized your projects. Many things in life can wait. The child cannot. Kitchen fires are also a priority, but if you have to do the dishes, put the kid to bed, move the boards out of the hall and are worrying about those 2017 taxes, making putting the kid to bed a priority, move the boards one at a time through the evening, and if the taxes will result in a gain, as opposed to reducing a loss let them wait. If the taxes are critical as fines are accruing or they are needed to pay off interest, then get a toe hold on them, make some progress, but don't try to finish them. Treat the dishes like the taxes. Take control, not try to finish them. So get them out of the work and eating areas, get the ones that benefit from soaking soaked and make sure you have coffee mugs, spoons and cereal bowls in sufficient quantity ready for breakfast. Use a stool at the sink to make the job easier if you just want to go sit down rather than do the dishes.

Prioritize work by consequences. If the Miller Account has to be finalized by December Third or you lose the client and risk being fired do that and chip away at it whenever you can. If you have it three quarters done by December first you or someone else still have a chance to finish it on time. If your desk is going to turn into a mess and make you frustrated and cross and confused do only sufficient half measures to keep yourself functional, such as making big stacks on the counter behind you which you can ignore. Keep your boss apprised of the way you are using your energy and the things you are making priorities. She will be reassured and more understanding if you tell her that your cubbie is a mess because you can either do the Miller Account or the filing and the filing is scheduled for December fourth.

Schedule breaks both at work and at home. Use these breaks to reassess and to stretch. If at eleven-thirty when you take your break your realise that any further work you do that day will be done wrong because you are collapsing, you are ahead because you won't waste your energy and time doing the work and then have to undo it later. Avoid time sinks. If you can't work don't allow yourself to net surf in a daze, as that won't allow you to rest, or get anything done, or look good. There may be mindless work you can do that is very low priority, but helps you look busy and does have to get done eventually. So in order to appear to be working you can delete old e-mails. But if you don't have to look busy there is nothing wrong with sitting at your desk doing nothing while you gather your strength.

Remember that the fatigue will come and go. You might have energy Monday and feel beat on Tuesday, manage a little on Wednesday, start Thursday with energy and then crash. That's fine. Adapt yourself to those unpredictable rhythms and give yourself complete permission to spend Tuesday keeping the kid amused in a sedentary way, to free your partner from that need so she/he can get downtime from being on with the kid to either work on stuff or have his/her respite time.

Think of your work and projects as requiring certain energy levels and and save the easy stuff for low energy days and hours

Use music to give yourself a rhythm to work with.

Get outside to help you develop lung capacity and oxygenation. Unless you live in a forest fire lousy air quality area.

Start exercise now but really, really gently. Test to see how much exercise wipes you out. If you go for a run and can't get back to the house and collapse for the next two days you over did it. If you walk down to the corner store for a hot dog lunch and have lots of energy afterwards, wait a couple of hours and then do something slightly more strenuous than a stroll like moving a push cart around for a few minutes. Under do it on exercise until you reliably know what over doing it looks like, but start with the exercise now. If you are back at work/still at work you are up to doing the exercise.

Take five or ten minutes every day to reward yourself for the effort you are making. Take a couple of hours every week to reward yourself too. Any kind of reward is good. Sitting down with a cup of mocha every day and making a short list of everything that went well today and why, is a decent kind of reward, or two hours on Wednesday night cuddling with spouse and watching a dumb Christmas movie is another, as long as you can regard it as a reward, and that you are getting time off and appreciation for the slog you are going through.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:44 AM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

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