Battling Influenza A with Crohn’s Disease

Battling Influenza A with Crohn’s Disease

I thought I had suffered from the flu at some point in my life. I’ve been sick, I’ve felt miserable, and I’ve had flu-like symptoms. I’ve even discussed this subject before, but I never realized just how nasty the flu could be.

This month, I tested positive for influenza A.

It started with a sudden onset of chills followed by hot flashes. I was clammy to the point that my ankles were sweaty. I wasn’t hungry, and the thought of eating made me nauseous. My body ached and felt restless. I knew I was getting sick, but I figured I would call my primary care team during their next available office hours.

I woke up the next morning to find that my fever had spiked to a whopping 101.9 F. My temperature has never been this high, and I knew that with my body healing from an unrelated surgery a few weeks ago, and as an IBD warrior, I needed to go to the emergency room to be seen as soon as possible. I took acetaminophen to help bring down my fever and off to the ER I went.

Influenza A brought a high fever and a trip to the ER. (Photo by Mary Horsley)

Hospital staff conducted several blood labs, a urinalysis for infection, and a flu test. I had never been tested for the flu like this, as I am sure I would have remembered it.

The nurse took a stick that seemed about a yard long and tried to push it almost completely up my nose. I fought her the first time. The second time, I asked to try it myself, but I couldn’t go through with it. I fought her as she tried again. I tried to stay as still as possible on the hospital bed, but my natural reaction was to pull away. Finally, she got it far enough in to complete the test. We waited.

I also had chest X-rays to check for pneumonia and other lung infections. The nurse returned with bad news: I had tested positive for influenza A. The doctor gave me meds and fluids to help bring down my fever and blood pressure and to bring up my pulse. After that, I was good to go with some medication from the pharmacy, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and Tamiflu.

Recovering from influenza A. (Photo by Mary Horsley)

My body with IBD was unhappy to have the flu, and I knew it. I could feel it in my stomach and could tell by the changes in my bowel habits. I wasn’t hungry for days. When I did eat, I would cough so much from being sick that it affected me physically. I drank lots of fluids to hydrate myself. My head hurt. My body ached.

Had I not gone to the doctor, and had I not received a flu shot in October, I’m sure it would have been worse.

Getting a flu shot is vital when dealing with autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s, but my doctor recommended I avoid the nasal spray because it is a live version of the infection. My gastroenterologist makes sure I get a shot every year before the holidays begin because it is important to protect an already weakened and compromised immune system. I wash my hands regularly and stay away from people who are sick. I wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer wherever I go.

I had been weaning myself off nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain medication post-op from the unrelated surgery, so I knew these medications would continue flaring my IBD. NSAIDs are a no-no for IBD.

If you have flu-like symptoms, contact your care team, especially if the symptoms worsen or linger for more than a few days. Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medications. Avoid taking antibiotics not prescribed by your doctors for a cold or flu, as they could do more harm than good to the healthy bacteria in your body. Never take meds without consulting your doctor first.


Note: IBD 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 providers 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 IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.

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