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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



I know everyone dreads getting the summer cold. But that’s just because it’s no fun, right? Well, mine just knocked me for six (OK so I don’t play cricket but you get the picture.) As a brain injury survivor I’m used to fighting through brain fog, but an added head cold makes it even worse. This common bug has been playing havoc with me.

How a simple bug can have such a drastic effect on a brain injury survivor.

Everyone has, at some point, found it hard to “think straight” when they are struggling with a bug. And this is especially the case when your sinus’ are affected. It slows down your speed of processing, making everything that little bit harder to work out. Many brain injury survivors, like me, already have had their processing speed hampered. But this made it look like the descent of a glacier down a mountain could give me a run for my money. Also dexterity can be physically impaired, and for me this showed up by my stumbling around on the landing when getting up from bed. I gained a number of bruises from bumping into door frames and the banister all because my feet had decided to get creative with what a straight line looks like.

But seeing as I have weakness throughout my left, I’m kind of used to looking a bit strange. The thing I really hate is the brain fog! So many times I picked up my laptop thinking how it felt like ages since I’d last written a blog, only to turn it off again because I couldn’t think of what to say. Writers block is one thing, but there is always something to talk about when writing about life with a brain injury. Yet I had nothing. My mental sharpness was as blunt as a spoon.

Inflammation is the biggest culprit.

Our immune systems go into over drive when a bug such as the common cold, or it’s evil cousin, flu, strike. They have a detrimental effect on neurotransmitters, which can already be having a hard time if you have a brain injury. So the immune system goes into full attack mode throughout the whole body. It’s like having a SWOT team marching everywhere and being very trigger happy. And whilst it’s great to have the “good guys”, all this drama causes inflammation. Unfortunately their version of radioing for backup, is swelling blood vessels so the white cells (our SWOT team) can have easy access to the bad guys den. This is the equivalent of blowing a hole in the wall for them, rather than just opening the door. This is inflammation, and often is the cause of your aching joints, sore throat, stuffed nose and thumping head. Yep, that’s right. It’s the heavy handed approach your SWOT team has towards the pathetic small time criminal “cold” that causes all the suffering. 

Of course I’m grateful for my immune system. And whilst it does seem to leave something wanting, it’s doing it’s best to protect me. Happily there are a few things you can do to reduce the sting of these symptoms:

  • Caffeine
  • Ibuprofen
  • Light exercise

Caffeine boosts the effectiveness of the anti-inflammatory behaviour of Ibuprofen when they are used together. Plus in increases mental alertness. (I went from a spoon to a butter knife. Alright this doesn’t perform miracles, but it helps.)

*Important note about Ibuprofen and other  nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

There is evidence that suggests prolonged use of these drugs can rise blood pressure, which may result in heart attack or stroke. According to Gregory Cuffman, MD, “Taking an NSAID for a headache, or for a few days to ease a sore shoulder isn’t likely to cause a heart attack or stroke. It’s more prolonged use that can get risky.

In view of the warnings, it is best for people with heart disease to avoid NSAIDs if at all possible, and for everyone who is considering taking an NSAID to proceed with caution. Here are some strategies:

  • It’s important to take the lowest effective dose, and limit the length of time you take the drug.
  • Never take more than one type of NSAID at a time. There appears to be risk associated with all types of NSAIDs.
  • Try alternatives to NSAIDs such as acetaminophen. It relieves pain but does not appear to increase heart attack or stroke risk. However, acetaminophen can cause liver damage if the daily limit of 4,000 milligrams is exceeded, or if you drink more than three alcoholic drinks every day.
  • If nothing else works and you need to take an NSAID for arthritis or other chronic pain, try taking week-long “holidays” from them and taking acetaminophen instead.
  • If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or sudden weakness or difficulty speaking while taking an NSAID, seek medical help immediately.

The fatigue got me.

Even as I had just about strung a few sentences together, I just didn’t have the energy to write anything. As a brain injury survivor, well timed naps are an important feature of the day. But I have slept so much more than I have been a wake since this stupid bug got me. And even then I would wake feeling dizzy, and so would even need to go back to sleep. I think the only reason I would wake at all was just to either consume some water, or let it out.

So whilst it’s still just a cold, and not something to unduly worry about, if a brain injury survivor says their cold bug is getting the best of them, you hopefully will better understand what they are going through.

Have you found a simple bug can hit you harder following your brain injury? Have you got any coping tips to share?


8 replies on “Simple bug Vs brain injury = Disaster”

Hey Michelle

I’m sorry to hear you’ve not been well. I know everything is so much harder with a brain injury.

I didn’t know those tips so will try to remember them if the time comes.

I love the SWAT team analogy!

Thanks Anne, I do enjoy turning things into a little story that’s easily to imagine.

I got the flu last year and thought that I was just tired from painting our small living room until 5 in the morning. A friend came to check on me and I ended up in the hospital for 3 days. My blood pressure regulator had caused my b/p to be 60/42. It had gotten so low that I was losing my vision. I am so sorry you have been feeling so awful and hoping you are better so very soon. Thank you for being there for so many of us who are still learning how our bodies react so different than they used to almost 3 years ago when I obtained Tbis that we’re so bad Ithat no nursing home rehab facility would even accept me to help me here in Arkansas. God bless you and keep a hedge up around you to keep your well being, safe

Thanks Vivian, yes I’m definitely on the mend now. I don’t feel great but I’m certain I’m over the worst of it.

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