A box of tissues and orange juice on a table.

Sick Of Getting Sick

One of the more frustrating things on the long list of AS annoyances is how it affects us when we are ill. Having a pesky immune system with a habit of attacking our bodies means that many of us take immunosuppressant medication to protect ourselves from ourselves. Essentially, illness hits us harder than the rest of the population and takes a lot longer to go away. Add a pandemic into the mix and being ill has never been scarier.

My experience

In the last month and a half I have managed to be ill twice. Each time I was completely written off for 2 weeks. Not only does it take me longer to recover from any kind of illness, but it also forces me to put my treatment on hold while I recover.

I've been advised to stop taking my medication whenever I get ill to give my immune system a chance to do it's job for once and fight off intruding illness. But this just leads to my conditions getting worse. The pain and stiffness increases while I am dealing with whatever the illness is throwing at me.

I find it really hard to function during these times and my mental health takes a hit as a result. It feels like my body is being attacked from all sides and as I live alone I often struggle to take proper care of myself.

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Can we normalize staying away from people?

It sounds strange to say this, given the current pandemic we are living in where we are constantly reminded to isolate if we are feeling sick. But sadly this doesn't seem to be happening in a lot of cases.

I was speaking to a friend recently who was sick and told me she couldn't take the day off work as her company wouldn't allow it. Furthermore, she just couldn't afford to lose the money and her company awarded bonuses for 100% attendance in an effort to stop employees taking sick days. I understand the business logic behind this, but it doesn't take into account the risk it puts others in - particularly those with underlying health conditions. Luckily she is a healthy woman, but if she were to come into contact with somebody not as fortunate health wise, there could have been terrible consequences.

These things happen outside of the workplace too. A girl I was dating a few years ago didn't feel she needed to reveal that she was suffering from pneumonia until I turned up to meet her. Needless to say I left abruptly and we did not end up living happily ever after together.

It isn't just COVID

COVID is taking all of the headlines at the moment, but people need to realize it isn't the only bug that can cause problems for others. Due to my increased vulnerability to COVID, I was forced to shield for the best part of a year and a half. It wasn't until I was "fully vaccinated" that I felt comfortable enough to venture out of my cave and see members of society again. This was something that my friends were very aware of.

Despite this, two of the illnesses that I picked up this year were kindly donated by a close friend. Following our first meeting, I woke up coughing and sneezing. About a week later he tested positive for COVID which gave me a real scare. Luckily, I tested negative so I guess he must have added that into the mix afterwards, but it didn't stop me needing a fortnight in bed to recover.

The next time we agreed to meet up, he messaged to say he was taking a lateral flow test before coming. I thought it very considerate of him to check that he was completely safe before setting off. However, after I saw him sneezing a few times while we were out together and then waking up the next day filled to the brim with phlegm, I realized that he was actually ill and just wanted to check that the illness wasn't COVID.

Luckily, it was just a regular cold again, but what was a couple of days with a runny nose for him, was two weeks of pain and misery for me.


Of course, unless we are prepared to live the rest of our lives in a hazmat suit, catching some kind of illness is inevitable. But I think that as a society we need to learn lessons from the pandemic and take extra precautions when it comes to preventing the spread of illness in general. We shouldn't limit these measures to COVID, we need to protect the vulnerable from other diseases too.

If you are living with a weakened immune system, it's important to ensure that the people in your life are aware of this fact. In addition to this, I have now started asking people if they are feeling ill when I’m arranging a meet up. It's a bit of an inconvenience, but I guarantee a bit of awkwardness when asking is better than the possible alternative.

With the pandemic still going strong and flu season being here, it’s vital that we stay as safe as we can. If you are unlucky enough to catch something, please make sure you rest up indoors to prevent someone else getting it too.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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