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Cold & Flu Season
When cold and flu season decides to come and visit, you will find that some or all your multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms may return and possibly back to full strength. Being on a disease modifying medication calms most visible signs of MS so that they are not that noticeable to others and even possibly to you. A fever tends to be the biggest source of exposing these signs for a short time.

You may even mistake this as an exacerbation or a non-effective treatment, but it's very unlikely that the timing of this would be the case. The rise in body temperature from a fever can make your MS symptoms worse. Doctors call this a "pseudoexacerbation."

A pseudoexacerbation isn't the same as having a relapse, when you have new or worse symptoms that last for more than 24 hours. Pseudoexacerbations are a flare of symptoms you've had before that go away once your body temperature returns to normal. They don't cause more damage or make your MS get worse.

Bring your fever down with over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help avoid a pseudoexacerbation and be more comfortable while you're getting better.

If you are concerned that this is more than a cold or flu, then it's important to contact your neurologist. Your neurologist is the one that can best distinguish between an exacerbation, non-effective treatment, or a cold and flu.

Now if you can tell that your symptoms are those of just a cold or flu, then you may be best served with your family doctor depending on the severity. If your symptoms include a "low-grade fever", runny nose, sneezing, congestion, head ache or a cough, then it is probably a cold. If your symptoms include a fever greater than 102°F, nausea, vomiting, chills, muscle aches, or sweating, then it is best to see your doctor since it's probably the flu.

Once you can get a fever under control, you will typically see a gradual return of your MS symptoms to their "normal" levels. The higher the fever or greater the number of symptoms, the longer a return to "normal" might take.

Treatments

Typically, an ibuprofen or acetaminophen type product will control a fever until your body gets things going in the right direction. Whether it's a cold or the flu, it's important to get any fever under control. This will also help any aches and pain associated with it.

Treatment of viral infections can be more challenging due to their size. For some viral diseases, such as influenza, antiviral medications have become available. It's important to remember that the use of antiviral medications have been associated with the development of drug-resistant microbes.

It's important to have a correct diagnosis of your illness. Remember that antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses, and are of use only in treating bacterial infections.
It's also important to remember that you must inform an doctor of all medications that you are taking prior to you taking any additional medication.

Your body needs to get as much rest as it can, not just for a cold or the flu, but mostly for your immune system to get back to some normal point. There is also the basic steps like plenty of fluids, plenty of rest, and "chicken soup" that are just as important to getting you back to a normal state.

Most all other symptoms of a cold or flu can be controlled with basic treatments and over-the-counter medications. Most people with MS find that daily multi-vitamins seem to help their immune system recover more quickly.

Recovery

A quick recovery is important to have since the longer your body is in a "run down" condition, the greater the opportunity MS has to come back at you. If the basics remedies don't seem to be working, you aren't getting better, or seem to be worsening, you must see your doctor. Your body has an ongoing battle that requires you to focus on it. You can't afford to waste your time or energy on a cold or flu.

If your treatment is working as it should and an exacerbation is not paying you a visit, then you are doing well. Every day is different and brings a change that reminds you that MS is there. It's normal to have your symptoms fluctuate daily from tingling in your leg on Monday, then small tremors in your arm on Tuesday, greater fatigue on Wednesday, and so on. It's also normal for those symptoms to increase when you are sick or not taking good care of yourself. The importance of recovery can't to be taken lightly, just like maintaining a healthy lifestyle at all times.
Staying Healthy
The following information is provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Flu Terms Defined:
H1N1 Influenza (H1N1flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen.

Bird flu is commonly used to refer to Avian flu (see below). Bird flu viruses infect birds, including chickens, other poultry and wild birds such as ducks.

Avian flu (AI) is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. Low pathogenic AI is common in birds and causes few problems. Highly pathogenic H5N1 is deadly to domestic fowl, can be transmitted from birds to humans, and is deadly to humans. There is virtually no human immunity and human vaccine availability is very limited.

Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu.

Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.

Stay informed. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after used.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends staying home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

Find healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety.

Call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information.

Learn about Who Needs A Flu Vaccine.