Dr. Arthritis Asks: Did You Know You’re At Higher Risk of Flu When You Have Arthritis?

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There’s a lot to look forward to when the weather gets colder. Unfortunately for arthritis sufferers, the last quarter of the year also brings a lot of challenges.

Colder weather means stiffer and more painful joints. This could mean more sleepless nights, which lead to fatigue and exhaustion. And as if that wasn’t already bad enough, this also happens to be flu season, which, as it turns out, arthritis sufferers are actually more prone to.

According to a study, arthritis sufferers, specifically Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) sufferers, are more vulnerable to infection. In fact, the risk of infection is two or three times more than normal. Why? RA is a condition that disrupts your normal immune function. And on top of that, most of the therapies used to treat and manage RA, unfortunately tend to suppress the immune system, making RA patients more susceptible to infections.

A Higher Risk for Complications

Flu is defined by muscle and body aches, fever, a sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, and fatigue. If you have RA, you’re not only increasing your risk of hospitalization, you’re also exposing yourself to bacterial infections such as sinus and ear infections, bronchitis, and even pneumonia.

In short, if you have arthritis, a flu isn’t just a flu that you can sleep off; and a cold is more than just the sniffles. When you have arthritis and the flu, you essentially have a condition that can be devastating for your already fragile condition.

Take a Proactive Approach for Your Health

Cold season is flu season—so take a more proactive approach to your health.

1. Drink lots of water to keep the flu virus at bay

Dehydration can lead to your nasal passages drying up, making you more susceptible to viruses. To prevent this, be sure to keep yourself hydrated. Drink lots of water and use nasal mists or saline sprays if you must.

2. Go out and get some sun

Vitamin D, which you can get from moderate exposure to the sun, can help fend of seasonal sickness.

3. Get some exercise

While you’re out getting some sun, be sure to combine that with some form of physical activity. According to research, people who exercise regularly get fewer and milder colds.

4. Wash your hands regularly

It is entirely possible for someone to catch a cold through your eyes. Your eyes are connected to the nasal membranes through the tear ducts, which makes it easy for viruses to sneak through your eyes. During flu season, be sure to wash your hands throughout the day and avoid rubbing your eyes. This will help cut your risk of respiratory illness significantly.

5. Get a flu shot

A lot of arthritis sufferers steer clear of vaccines thinking that it might have an adverse effect on their illness or that it won’t help their condition at all. Here’s our take on this—steer clear of the nasal spray version, which contains live virus and opt instead for the shot, which uses an inactive virus.

Should you still catch the flu…

Drop everything and rest.

You’re already dealing with a lot, just by living with arthritis. There is no shame in taking time out to rest and recuperate. If needed, be sure to reach out to a trusted physician as there may be a need to stop certain medications.

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