Since I got diagnosed with all my Chronics (see the sidebar for the list), it is very difficult to determine when I’m sick. Why? Well, let’s break that down, shall we?
First, the symptoms of the common cold (source: Mayo Clinic):
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy or sore throat
- Slight body aches or a mild headache
- Watery eyes
- Low-grade fever
- Mild fatigue
And the symptoms of the flu (source: Mayo Clinic):
- Fever over 100 F (38 C)
- Aching muscles, especially in your back, arms and legs
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
Those seem pretty straight forward, don’t they? Well, unfortunately, my Chronics make it anything but.
Lifelong it has been difficult to tell when I’m sick, or at least tell when I get better (sometimes, it’s really obvious I’m ill).
My horrible allergies mean that I constantly have a runny or stuffy nose, itchy or sore throat, cough (also goes along with my asthma), congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes. Allergies and asthma also cause fatigue, as they are caused by your immune system running full tilt all the time which uses a ton of energy. Well, that took out almost all of the cold symptoms right there, didn’t it? It also took out a lot of the flu symptoms.
Remember, I’ve also always suffered from headaches. I can tell the difference between pretty much all types of headaches, but I also am being constantly bombarded by all the headaches. Sinus headaches accompany allergies like mine, and I often get throbbing headaches if I have issues breathing.
For the longest time, my only ways to determine if I had a cold or the flu were: a random increase in my coughing that didn’t correspond with my allergies or exercise, body aches (remember, I’ve always had pain, but it would get a lot worse) that weren’t caused by obvious overuse, fever and the accompanying symptoms of chills/sweating.
Unfortunately, those don’t even work anymore. I’m constantly guessing. Sometimes, it’s very obvious, but usually anyone’s guess is just as good as my own.
Fibromyalgia causes widespread body aches that almost any fibro site will tell you are akin to flu aches. Random body aches are also associated with POTS. While my fibro may have been around for most of my life, it has definitely gotten worse in recent years, so the aches have gotten worse and more commonplace. Fibro also causes fatigue and weakness… yay.
Dysautonomia (POTS and IST) means that my autonomic nervous system doesn’t work right. The autonomic nervous system controls everything that you don’t have to think about: breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. This includes TEMPERATURE REGULATION!
A fever of over 100°F is still pretty rare for me, but that could also be simply because my body doesn’t always get that hot when it theoretically should be. My normal body temperature is 97.6°F (average human temp is 98.6°F, but an average means people are both above and below). I take my temperature on a semi-regular basis, mostly out of curiosity and partly due to random hot flashes and chills. Anything over 98°F means I feel a little crappier than normal, but it could simply be due to my body’s inability to properly regulate my temperature.
So how do I know I’m sick? Well, last night it was pretty obvious. I had a fever of about 99.5°F consistently for most of the day, and by the evening I couldn’t walk properly. I full on fell once, out of nowhere, and almost fell a few more times but was holding onto Dan. By bedtime he was almost having to carry me. I was very dizzy and shaky, and I was so tired it almost felt like I was already asleep. Not pleasant. Not even remotely “normal” for me. Today, I know I’m still sick, but only because I know it takes more than one day to get over a cold that bad. My sinuses are oozing, but they have been that way for over a month due to the dry winter air; my body aches, but it’s also been doing that for over a month due to the weather shifting between warm and cold; my throat hurts, but it’s been doing that a long time also due to the dry air, which also means I’ve been coughing a lot. Really, my only hints are that I feel a bit weaker than normal and my temperature is bouncing around more than normal. I’m not showering without Dan being home for fear of passing out or falling… though hopefully a shower later today will help.
Seriously, having Chronics makes determining if you’re sick really difficult.