Clearly Invisible : Fighting the Flu
This segment of the blog is dedicated to shedding light on the invisible side of CF- striving to spark dialogue, cultivate understanding, and encourage compassion between all of us.
We are in prime Flu season and this time of year can be a bit unnerving for people with CF. While there's no guarantee I won't catch the flu, I take some extra precautions and implement some thoughtful habits to help protect me throughout this season. Here's my advice for getting through the season:
- Wash your hands and use hand-sanitizer often.
- Keep it clean – use a disinfectant daily to keep your living environment clean. Wipe down door handles, light switches, faucets, remotes, keyboards, fridge handles, etc. Keeping these high traffic areas disinfected daily will help the spread of compromising germs that could be detrimental to a person with CF’s health – or anyone whose immune system is compromised.
- Disposable hand towels – It may seem like a small thing but replacing your cloth hand towel in the bathroom with disposable hand towels can help deter the spread of germs.
- Vitamin D – Find ways to get some extra Vitamin D which during the winter months quickly depletes because of our increased time indoors and lack of sunlight. Make sure to take all your vitamins and eat vitamin rich foods. It’s important for people with CF to take in extra vitamins as our bodies do not efficiently absorb vital nutrients.
- Make weight – My CF team has a catchy phrase when it comes to CF and extra weight: “more fluff, more puff.” I know during Influenza season it’s important for me to be dedicated to maintaining or even gaining weight so my body can better fight off infection. Studies have linked increased BMI to increased or stabilized lung function in CF. A large portion of the CF population has difficulty maintaining and gaining weight which has significant effects on the body’s ability to fight infection and maintain lung function.
- Sinus rinses – Daily sinuses rinses help clear out the sinuses and help flush away possible infection that was breathed in during the day. If I have been around a large crowd or in a busy public area I will make sure and do a sinus rinse as soon as I am able.
- Get adequate rest and stay hydrated – A person with CF uses a significant amount of energy just to breathe and do basic everyday tasks. Becoming worn down and dehydrated can be detrimental to our health and can quickly spiral into an exacerbation.
- Get vaccinated and share the importance of those around you getting vaccinated.
- Keep the distance - during peak flu season be cautious about being around a lot of people and in busy public places. Take the appropriate precautions if heading into crowded areas and weigh the risks of needing to go out. It’s best to keep your distance from large groups of people and places you know may be filled with deadly Influenza germs. Weigh the risks and benefits of heading out and maybe grab a mask, hand sanitizer, and try not to touch your face.
- Speak up – Don’t be afraid to remind people that covering a cough, exposure to illness, and hand washing can mean life or death to people with compromised immune systems – especially respiratory issues like CF. Staying away from people who are sick is the best way to avoid infection.
- Stay connected – Influenza A can be deadly for people with CF. It’s important that if you feel any symptoms to call your clinic or go in immediately.
Today's entry is written from the perspective of Ashley Ballou-Bonnema.
Please consult your CF care team if you have concerns about Influenza A or if you want to make any changes to your CF regimen. For more information about Influenza and CF read "Influenza: Learn How to Stay Healthy" from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.