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What 'Just a Cold' Can Mean for Those on Immunosuppressants


When you have lupus, a chronic illness or any autoimmune disease, it’s never “just a cold.”

If you’re on immunosuppressants, “just a cold” can turn into a pretty major or even life-threatening infection scarily fast. Even if you’re not on immunosuppressants a cold can still trigger a flare-up of your lupus or chronic illness, resulting in a need to change or increase medications.

During a recent winter my boss came to work with a cold…which I, being on three different types of immunosuppressants, caught very quickly.

Within 24 hours I was seeing my GP, who gave me antibiotics for a sinus infection. I have a very good rheumatologist who asks to be notified if I even get so much as a sniffle, so I rang him. After speaking to me, he begged me to get someone to drive me the three hours to go see him, so less than 12 hours after seeing my GP I was at the rheumatologist’s office. A quick examination and it was straight to hospital where I was admitted for double pneumonia and pleurisy. This all happened in less than 48 hours of being exposed to the illness!

A week in the hospital, away from my young family, months off work, so many expensive tests and medications. The cost to my family life, my work life, my social life and finances is just beyond comprehension. After all, it was just a cold…

I had been so well for so long that I had been gradually lowering my doses of things like methotrexate and corticosteroids with my rheumatologist’s guidance and had finally been feeling like I had some control over my body again. But this one little cold put me back to before square one again. It’s been over 12 months now and I still haven’t got back to those pre-cold doses of medications. I feel like the steroid moon face will be the only face I will see in the mirror forever.

And still people say, “Don’t worry, it’s just a cold!”

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Thinkstock photo via razyph.