MS, Coronavirus, and My Crazy Immune System

Stephanie Towler avatar

by Stephanie Towler |

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immune system, coronavirus

When I received my multiple sclerosis diagnosis, I was told that my immune system is a little weaker than most people’s and I am more susceptible to getting sick. But I didn’t realize how easy it would be to catch a cold until I did.

No matter what precautions I take, it seems that if someone is sick around me, I have a good chance of catching their cold. Fighting the cold can also be a struggle. It feels as if no matter what I do, my immune system just surrenders to the sickness.

Once when I got sick and went to the doctor, I thought it was just a small cold. But I had an upper respiratory illness and a sinus infection. That small cold resulted in four prescriptions and five days away from work. That’s when it hit me: My body doesn’t fight off viruses like it did before.

Catching a cold

I try to avoid being in the presence of someone who is sick. My mother had a cold when she returned from vacation, so I bought cleaning products, gloves, and even medical masks to protect myself from her germs. I tried to sanitize the house, but my entire plan failed. The next day, my throat hurt, and before I knew it, she was fine and I was the one confined to bed.

Coronavirus concern

With everything going on in the world thanks to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, we must take precautions to do what we can to prevent getting sick. Experts say that those with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable to it. When I heard this, I decided to take all of the necessary precautions to protect myself from this virus.

Taking precautions

Hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes are to be found in abundance in my house. Frequently touched areas get a wipe down just in case. I have sanitizer and hand wipes in the car, and I only go out if I have a good reason. Limiting my interaction with others and avoiding crowds will protect my health. Netflix and DIY projects have become my main outlets for entertainment.

Despite watching TV news reports and reading about the virus, I can’t sit here feeling scared. I will resolve to wash my hands more than I already do and use more sanitizer. I will avoid going places with crowds unless it’s necessary. Living in fear will not make this virus go away, but taking some extra steps can help. All I can do is hope for the best and pray that it’s all over soon.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Ruth Hoham avatar

Ruth Hoham

Are you taking a DMT? I have been told that our immune systems are rather “robust,” but therapies are responsible for compromising it. Those of us not taking treatment are not at increased risk.

Mary avatar


I thought same. I get sick LESS often. Havent had a bad cold in over 10 years, despite 6 grandchildren around.

Scotty W. avatar

Scotty W.

It's not until you start taking medication that your immune system is affected. Per the Nation MS Society:

"Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves."

The issue is when someone begins taking a DMT. DMTs generally cause a reduction in cells that are a part of the auto-immune system, which in turn causes us to be immunocompromised.

Linda avatar


I’ve understood with MS our immune system is overactive not underactive ie weaker??Unless you are on immune suppressing meds for MS, then yes, we’re susceptible to ‘catching anything going around’. Good old soap and water is preferable to hand sanitizers or wipes. Know why? Because a virus is coated in a type of fat cell and in exactly the same way that good old soap and water gets fatty grease off your dishes, it will help to disrupt and remove the virus off your hands. It’s cheaper too. And better for the environment than wipes that have to be produced and disposed of. Check it out and give it a go. Nanna was right all along! There may be a silver lining to this challenging situation. Maybe it’s an opportunity to press the reset button and get some permanent behavioural change where we all think about our choices of what we buy and use because we’re all in this world together. Afterall, you could argue that we’re in this covid 19 mess because some nincompoops decided it was a great idea to eat illegally captured endangered animals at an unhygienic wet market where illegally sold wild animals are kept and slaughtered in unsanitary conditions. But that’s just my personal opinion.

enrico avatar


treu, maybe not for all. but the thing i notice is that corona normalize it more for me.

Alex Sadowski avatar

Alex Sadowski

The immune system is just as strong even if you take DMT. Anyone can catch covid19. You have to follow the same guidelines to prevent infection to protect yourself and others. I agree 100% with Ruth and Linda!

RLC avatar


Taking extra care to keep away from crowds and disinfect is great IF there are products available to do so. I'm on my last roll of toilet paper so that tells you where my locality stands.

J Howell avatar

J Howell

As mentioned above, it seems the DMT is the issue with immunity, not the MS itself, though your mileage might vary. I know I was still in the ridiculously good immune system camp until I started Gilenya. Since then...not so much.

I've had the worst sinus infection of my entire life in the last 4 or 5 months since I started Gilenya, and then got sick enough to actually miss a couple of days of work a couple of months ago. That was from an unidentified, non-flu upper respiratory infection that I'm now thinking may possibly have even been COVID before it was identified. I know it was definitely not the flu, and kicked my ass in a way no illness had in...ever, really. I hadn't been completely bedridden by anything like that for two days in my entire adult life up until then. If that wasn't COVID-19 and was just some garden variety virus...yikes.

Kathy Rogers avatar

Kathy Rogers

I was diagnosed with MS in 2005 (at age 55) and for the last 15 years I have never had a serious case of the flu (without a flu vaccine) or even a severe cold. And considering my grandchildren are virus incubaters, and I can never pass up hugs and kisses I have been exposed every year. Now with Covid-19 discussions regarding autoimmune diseases seeming to suggest a hyperactive immune response to the virus, I am more confused than ever. My symptoms are pain related and some weakness and I don't take any medication to reduce the immune response, finding I was worse off, in past years, trying every new medication on the market. So I would like to know if I became infected could my overactive immunity either help to combat this virus or, in the least, reduce the severity - as I've experienced with the flu? Or have I just lucked out these past years and there's no science to support my experience?

Rebecca Zeising avatar

Rebecca Zeising

How soon or how will we know when we are able to return back to work when being quarantine for a couple months with MS and taking meds??

Shanna Nolan avatar

Shanna Nolan

Kathy, I am with you a 100%. Except I haven't even had a flu vaccine. I did my research where disease modifying drugs were concerned and had tried the mildest form they offered. I was extremely ill from it, not even coherent while on it. They tried to convince me to continue with the medication because my "quality of life." depended on it. I told my neurologist that if this is quality of life, I don't want life. By the the way, supposedly suicide is one of the side effects. Whatever. I have an over active immune system. Knock on my head I don't get sick. I am a fanatic at preventing such because I know my consequences if I do. I finally had someone ask the very same question I want to know, you, and I thank you! I am very sensitive to chemicals. Why am I going to opt for a vaccine/chemical in my body such as the covid19 vaccine when I work in the medical field and have to request doctors orders for a covid 19 test for mostly vaccinated people? I do not know what to believe at this point and although I have M.S. I can say that I am not the only one to ponder these questions about my disease and the thought that maybe I am fortunate to have it and grateful to not be on disease modifying drugs..


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