Stay Ahead of the Curve During Cold and Flu Season!
So here we are in the middle of cold, flu, and seems like never-ending Covid season. With that in mind, it’s a good time to be proactive and think ahead about how you might be affected if you were to wind up with any of these ailments. This is especially important if you have a higher level of spinal cord injury (SCI). So, we, The Rollin’ RNs put our heads together to provide you with some things to think about, as well as some products to have on hand if and when you need them.
The higher your SCI injury level, the more compromised you may be when getting sick. Thanks to weak or even absent breathing muscles this can make it more difficult to take a deep breath or cough up and out the congestion in our chest. When this happens, the junk settles into the lungs and can rapidly turn into pneumonia. And that can land you in the hospital!
Again, think proactive!
At the first sign of a scratchy throat, runny nose, or a cough that isn’t related to allergies, pay attention. If symptoms start to progress or you begin running a fever, it’s a good time to talk with your doctor. It’s especially important that they are aware of your SCI and how that affects your breathing abilities. (Today telehealth visits are very common and a great way to stay in touch with your doctor from the comfort and safety of your own home.) Together, you and your doctor can come up with a plan of treatment.
Some helpful things to have at home for times like this include:
Vicks vapor rub: Rub on chest and throat, temporarily relieves cough due to minor throat and bronchial irritation associated with the common cold.
Nebulizer machine: A nebulizer is a piece of medical equipment that a person with asthma or another respiratory condition can use to administer a medication directly and quickly to the lungs. A nebulizer turns liquid medicine into a very fine mist that a person can inhale through a face mask or mouthpiece.
Over the counter (OTC) and prescription medications for cold, cough, and flu. Mucinex is an OTC medicine that contains guaifenesin which is an expectorant that helps reduce chest congestion caused by colds, infections, or allergies. It works by thinning the mucus in the air passages and makes it easier to cough it up.
Pulse Oximeter is a sensor placed on one of your fingers and can indicate whether your lungs are moving enough oxygen through your bloodstream. An oxygen saturation level of 95 percent is considered typical for most healthy people. A level of 92 percent or lower can indicate a potentially low level of oxygen circulating in the blood and time to notify your doctor.
Other helpful tips:
Important! Learn a cough method that works for you (your core and diaphragm) to move congestion up and out of your chest. This may include cough assist with help from another person. See these cough assist ideas:
Sleeping with your head elevated makes it easier for the muscles of the neck and chest walls to help carry oxygen to the lungs. It may also quiet your cough long enough to help you fall asleep.
Increase fluids to keep you hydrated and thin mucus. (Water, warm broths, and teas)
Get plenty of rest.
Protect your skin. Especially if you have an SCI. Sleeping in different positions than you’re used to during the day and night may cause pressure issues so keep an eye on your skin.
Hopefully, with a little preventive thinking, planning, and action, you can keep yourself as healthy as possible and out of the hospital when you do find yourself under the weather.
It’s all good, so keep on rollin’.
Roberta Palmer, RN and Patty Kunze, BSN, RN
The Rollin’ RNs ™