Tips for Avoiding Germs With Lupus
I admit it. If you are sick with anything from a cold, stomach virus, flu or strep, I do not wish to see you in person. Phone it in, Skype it, text message; know that whatever conversation, visit or love you feel a need to share with me and my family, I would rather wait a while to see you if you have been sick in the last five days.
I am not being mean or cold-hearted. In fact, I pose the idea that perhaps it is those who come bearing germs that will knock me out of commission and perhaps into the ER, who are behaving without consideration or kindness.
It is a difficult topic. I still struggle to find the best way to ask for love and respect from family and friends who seem to forget that I live with a compromised immune system and the weight of what that truly means to my life.
This year has been lucky so far with only a couple of stomach viruses and a cold, all of which did not come from daily life, grocery store carts or even from my kids from school, but instead came from contact with a friend or loved one who thought that getting together was of greater importance than my health or simply did not think about it at all.
With lupus in a flare, my overactive immune system is attacking me on the inside instead of those energetic germs people bring to me.
Last year, I had strep three times and was sick for four months straight on top of lupus, battling bacteria that even antibiotics could not keep at bay. My doctor said that with my immune system in that state, I would catch anything, even if it was just being in the same room as someone who was sick and happened to cough.
What would not affect others around me would find me easy prey with my defenseless systems. But how do you get the people in your life to “get it” and look out for you?
My Struggling Strategy
- Explain, explain, and then explain again. Not that we should have to say it more than a couple of times, but honestly people forget most of what does not affect them personally.
- Get the emotional strength to tell people the truth about protecting yourself. Learn to say (though it is hard to do with loved ones) that you know they are on the mend, (because they all say that) but you would rather wait at least five to six days after their complete recovery before you see them in person.
- If nobody else will protect you, protect yourself. Don’t attend a party if you know someone in attendance has been ill.
- Develop a thick skin. And I don’t mean a lupus rash. We need to be prepared that even those who love us may not like being told to stay away until they are completely well.
- If you find yourself unexpectedly around others who may be contagious, be cautious about eating from the buffet of food and wash your hands after touching surfaces such as door knobs. Try to keep personal space between you and others and if you are really concerned, excuse yourself early.
Taking Protection Into Your Own Hands
If you saw me, overly concerned about germs and religiously cleaning certain parts of my house to limit the threat of illness, you might think I am a germaphobe. Because of lupus, I have to be.
Having my kids at school greatly increases the threat of dangerous germs coming into my life. In the past, I have felt pretty defenseless against the inevitable onslaught against my immune system. I decided last school year I had to devise some method of protection, even if it was a small one.