Being “Normal” Sick While Chronically Ill

First of all, it’s extremely difficult to determine if you’re actually sick, because colds, the flu, and infections tend to mimic the symptoms of the chronic illnesses… differentiating between a cold and a flare can be extremely difficult. (I go more in depth about this problem here.)

cold-156666_1280I realized I was sick this time because I suddenly felt like I was swimming through cement. I also was having a lot more gastrointestinal distress than comes from eating the wrong thing, and it stuck around for a few days. My digestive system decided to switch from my normal IBS-C to suddenly having IBS-D type behavior. (It’s calmed down a little now, but I’m still having some problems.) Then, I started getting off and on fevers in the evening. My fever spiked to 100° F (my normal is 97.6° instead of the average 98.6°) before I decided I should really take some Tylenol for it.

Then, after a week of most definitely being sick, and still having to carry on with life… it got worse! I woke up with a start because both nostrils had swollen shut and I could barely breathe. Then, when I sat up (far faster than I should have – thanks dysautonomia) to be able to breathe better, I realized it felt like I’d been hit in the face with a sledgehammer. Every time I would bend over during the day, I got severe pre-syncope symptoms. Same would happen while I was standing/walking. So I called my doctor and managed to get an appointment for the next day.

When the chronically ill get “normal” sick, it’s usually much worse than it is for our “normal” peers. We already don’t have any energy thanks to our chronic illnesses, so anything else drains what little energy we did have. We also tend to get more than one illness at a time, thanks to our overworked immune systems.

At my doctor’s office, I discovered I probably have three separate viruses (or at least two). I have a sinus infection, that’s one. (80-90% of sinus infections are viral.) I also have a virus that has been going around the Denver area for a while now, and lasts 2-4 weeks (though my PCP said she wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted longer for me thanks to my immune system), that’s two. I may have a nasty stomach bug that’s been going around as well, which would make three, or the general virus I have is messing with my intestines. Obviously, I’m not doing very well. The sinus infection is causing the most problematic symptoms: severe dizziness, blacking out (severe pre-syncope), disorientation, and pain.


However, since my symptoms are severe and my immune system is complicated, my doctor gave me a prescription for an antibiotic. If I get significantly worse, or my fever gets high, then I can start taking it. I probably won’t unless my fever is spiking significantly, as I don’t want to worry about building up resistance. With the chronically ill, it can often be hard to determine the difference between viruses and bacteria, and since it’s hard to tell it’s hard to determine proper treatment. Plus, while battling a virus, it is really easy to pick up a bacteria.

Hopefully, I will recover in another week with just the phenylephrine (easier on my tachycardia than pseudophedrine, but not quite as effective), Mucinex, Benadryl, and sinus rinses. I was told to go ahead and add Claritin to my daily medications (even though I’m on Xyzal) until my infection clears. I can even add Afrin if I want, at night, which I may do tomorrow if I struggle to sleep tonight. If I go get Afrin, I’m going to get a warm steam humidifier as well. I have a cool humidifier, but it does cool the room off a lot which is not so good when it’s cool outside. I really hope this doesn’t last the four weeks or longer!

10 thoughts on “Being “Normal” Sick While Chronically Ill

    • Oh, I’ll have to go check your post out, thanks for sharing!

      I’m still recovering, it’s been 4 weeks of being really ill. (I got the flu about 1.5-2 weeks after what I talk about in this post.) It’s always so hard to reach 100% again!


  1. I can so relate to this. On top of my chronic diseases I’m battling a salivary gland virus, sinusitis & two abscessed teeth. Penicillin is adding to the overall sick feeling & only just helping with the abscesses.
    Loved your post. So relatable to so many in the chronic illness community.

    I really hope you recover from all these extras you just don’t need really soon

    Take care
    Sam x


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