Spinal Cord Injury Community

Sick Happens: Spinal Cord Injury and the Common Cold

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
01/23/20  9:11 AM PST
sci common cold

A lingering cough interrupts my thoughts as I lay in bed attempting to type this blog. I am on day 15 of a severe chest infection, of which my wife, Katelyn, has been holistically treating me at home. In the past, I would have been immediately hospitalized for a respiratory infection of this nature, however, at this point, 20 years post injury, my family and I have learned to distinguish the subtle precursors and nuances of a common bug, how to homeopathically fortify my immune system and thus treat my symptoms. With that said, I am not suggesting medical intervention/medication is not a safe and viable way to treat an illness. I am saying that I am glad I am not on harsh medication or in the hospital!

Many years ago I suffered from pneumonia. It was a horrible experience for me. It scarred my lungs and for a brief moment suffocated me to the point of flatline. Due to that respiratory trauma and the complications of quadriplegia, a common cold, flu bug, or airborne virus can really ravage my system. Many times over the years I have ended up in the emergency room due to a “common cold” because it can affect me so severely. For awhile I felt like a germaphobe, or even a hypochondriac, because I was so worried about getting sick. I would decline invitations to social outings, avoid a hand shake, or refuse to play with my young nephews for fear of exposure. Crowded airplanes, movie theaters, or concerts were a cesspool of illness I was too afraid to enter.

I felt this way because the complications of spinal cord injury that compound an illness are numerous. Subpar oxygen consumption because of upper chest and diaphragm paralysis, circulation and thermoregulation impairment, slow digestion and nutrient assimilation, poor hydration and waste expulsion all compromise an already taxed immune system.

For an uninjured body, these natural functions help expedite the eviction of an unwelcome viral intruder. Aided by some over-the-counter medication, the average “Joe” can kick a common cold with relative ease. But for me, and others with a spinal cord injury, it is not quite that simple.

What I have learned is that a heightened self-awareness is a good thing, and that a healthy dose of germ aversion is not bad, and by that I mean I wash my hands frequently, carry sanitizer, wipes and sprays, and do not touch my eyes, ears, nose and mouth consciously.

Rule of thumb – The holes of the body are the doorways for bugs.

Obviously though, sick happens, most often when you least expect it. The best defense I have found is a combination of these things:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Nutrition
  3. Exercise
  4. Rest
  5. Research

I do not get the flu-shot, or any type of immunization. Rather, I fortify with nature’s best, high impact fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. I supplement with immune-boosting B, C & D vitamins and minerals and hydrate with all-natural salt/sugar electrolytes like coconut, aloe or warm lemon/lime water.

The strength of my immune system also fluctuates with stress. I have felt an immediate decline in immunity when I am flushed with stress hormones like Adrenaline, Cortisol, Norepinephrine. For my overall well-being, I try to be mindfully aware of stress – keeping a stress-free environment, low-stress relationships and activities that support happiness and joy. This may sound a bit fanciful, but I can tell you that the cells of my body like to be happy and stress-free. This type of cellular awareness is called epigenetics, but that is a whole other blog.

Another empowering way to prevent and/or manage a common illness is to educate yourself on the different strains of viruses going around your area or what you may have been exposed to. There are distinct differences in strains of viruses and thus, different ways to treat. Your doctor will tell you this and recommend a treatment/medication protocol accordingly.

At the end of the day, we sometimes get sick, and in my case I am ill with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). I am applying the five points above and supplementing with canned oxygen. My room is humidified and tranquil and at this point I feel 85 percent better without medication or medical intervention.

I am, however, very fortunate to have a wife and mother who keep a vigilant eye on me and are prepared to execute emergency tactics if needed. I also know that my doctor and the hospital are there for a reason. I am just happy that I am not the hyper-sensitive alarmist I once was and that my body responds to the TLC at home.

For more about living with Spinal Cord Injury:

If you’re looking for individual support, you can reach out to me, Shield HealthCare’s Spinal Cord Injury Specialist, Aaron Baker, through our Ask Aaron feature, or learn more about me on my site.


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