Editor’s note: “Need to Know” is a series inspired by common forum questions and comments from readers. Have a comment or question about MS? Visit our forum. This week’s question is inspired by the column,”Tips to Fend Off Invasion of the Common Cold” from Jan. 30, 2017.
If you have children or work in a public-facing job, then you will have already noted the onset of cold and flu season and the viruses circulating in our communities.
My kids are grown, but I’m aware — from comments by parent friends on social media — that some kids are home from school due to illness.
With this knowledge, I’m making shifts in my lifestyle and behavior:
- I use sanitizing hand wipes or gels on the cart and self-checkout screen at the grocery store.
- I’m vigilant about wiping down my laptop keyboard and phone screen.
- I avoid going out in public — I’ve imposed a kind of self-quarantine.
- I wash my hands more than usual.
- I get a flu shot.
- I actively avoid sick people.
I’m no germaphobe, just wary of picking up a virus these days, whether an “official” strain of flu or some other random respiratory virus.
What is it about respiratory viruses that can make life difficult for people with multiple sclerosis (MS)?
It’s all about the immune system
People with MS have compromised immune systems. Our immune responses are amped up and can be triggered to attack the myelin coating of our brain matter, causing irreversible damage.
Having MS creates two unique scenarios related to treatment courses that can force a flu vigil at this time of year. Why? Viruses also tax the immune system and can cause more severe symptoms in those with MS than those with healthy immune systems.
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