We often hear of people catching pneumonia. Sometimes the elderly even die from it. But the actual illness doesn’t seem overly scary to most of us. In fact, it’s somewhat common. But when YOU have pneumonia, it feels like a different story.
This year, the day after Thanksgiving, I started coughing–a lot. I dutifully went to InstaCare, only to be told that I had bronchitis, it was viral, and nothing could be done for it. I was given a prescription for an inhaler and told to drink lots of water and get lots of rest.
So I returned home and continued to hack for another three weeks. I rested as much as I could, but I’m a stay-at-home mom to two boys. The youngest especially has lots of energy. Finally, I decided to see my regular doctor because I could hardly breathe without coughing.
She took one listen of my lungs and said, “It’s definitely pneumonia!” I was actually relieved because now I had an official reason to be wiped out and tired. She immediately prescribed strong antibiotics and put me on bed rest for seven days. I think I made it one day without having to get up a bazillion times to help my preschooler.
But my husband helped, when he was home from work, and my oldest son was a trooper too. I also did a second round of antibiotics. So eventually I did rest. And eventually I began to get better. With a month and a half of sickness during the holidays, I had time to ponder a lot.. Here are a few things I realized from my experience.
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For Those Who Have Pneumonia or a Similar Illness
1. A pneumonia diagnosis doesn’t sound serious if you’re young. I’m not super young, but I’m not old either. So having pneumonia doesn’t sound like that big of a deal to others. I simply had to realize that. When it took me well over a month to begin to function well again, that amount of recovery time was really tough for some to understand. Everyone’s recovery is different. In fact, I’m still coughing as I write this. At first, I was mad that “pneumonia” wasn’t an obvious explanation. But the fact is, it’s common. We hear about it all the time. Yeah, people are concerned, but they aren’t super concerned. You’re young, you’ll get well. I finally had to realize that thought process and try not to feel so frustrated with some lack of concern.
2. People don’t know when you’re sick. Honestly, they don’t. I didn’t broadcast it on social media. I guess I thought that somehow people would talk to each other and that my neighbors would somehow know. Not many did. Even family who did know were busy during the season or lived too far away. But it didn’t mean that they didn’t think about me and hope for my well-being. It took me a while to understand and accept this as well.
3. Some people are truly nervous about getting sick too. I realized pretty quickly that as soon as some people did find out I had pneumonia it was like putting an archaic quarantine sign on my door. No one else wanted the germs. Though I’d been on antibiotics and was no longer contagious after a few days, my seal-barking cough didn’t sound very convincing. Sooooo I stayed home. I didn’t want to make others feel uncomfortable, and I was just super tired.
4. If you need help, you have to ask for it. I really, really didn’t want to bother anyone. And for the most part, I was doing ok. But I had to consider my son’s needs too. He wasn’t fine. He was bored, busy, and bouncing off the walls because it was Christmastime. So I really did have to ask my friends to take him for a few hours to play with their kids. He wasn’t sick, and he loved getting out.
Know Someone Who’s Ill?
1. Visits or texts are so kind. A few of my friends and family figured out I was sick and did something about it. While no one wanted my germs, they were at least nice enough to make sure I was on the mend. I so appreciated their thoughtfulness. I had cabin fever to the extreme and was feeling lonely and frustrated.
2. Help with kids is a godsend. I had a couple of friends who took my preschooler twice. I was desperately appreciative of their efforts. If I was bored, he was quadruple-bored. I could rest better, knowing he was doing something besides watching tv or playing on his ipad–default activities when I’m not able to supervise.
3. A meal can be like manna. One friend brought over a meal. Of course we had food in the house, and we can open cans and boxes with the best of them. But she brought over something home cooked, and I truly, truly appreciated the gesture. Plus, it was healthy food–just what my recovering body needed. Another friend dropped off assorted juices and vitamin water. So helpful! Other friends offered meals too, but I didn’t want or need meals in mass. For me, a meal or two was just right. I mostly liked knowing that they were willing to offer, though. Don’t cook? Just drop off a can of chicken noodle soup with a note. A bottle of OJ is a nice treat too.
4. If you’re close with the person, offer to help around the house. During the worst days of my illness, my house looked absolutely, terribly awful–truly a mess. I was not comfortable asking for anyone’s help unless they were blood related. Even then, I still dragged myself to the kitchen sink and washer/dryer. But that’s me and my pride. Others who are sick may welcome the household help.
5. Offer to loan books, DVDs, or magazines. I loved the BBC Sherlock Holmes series but am pretty sick of it now. I also watched every Disney, kid Christmas movie out there. I should have asked friends to loan me something new to watch. Same with the books. I’d read the good stuff in my house and couldn’t get to the library to search more good reads. Yeah, I know I could have downloaded something. But I’m a purist; I like books. Plus, I didn’t know what I wanted to watch or listen to. So suggesting a few favorites might have been a fun thing for me.
6. Offer to run errands. One friend and kind neighbor picked up some contact lens solution for me at my eye doctor’s office. I was completely out and couldn’t wear my lenses. I’m legally blind without them. She graciously took care of the problem for me, and her husband drove my son to a before-school class. These individuals were total life savers for me.
Some Additional Things to Ask for or Offer
Healthy food. Since my body was trying to fight off infection, I needed and craved good, wholesome foods. Treats might be fun for the family, but I just wanted the healthy stuff.
Plenty of liquids. I sipped on a lot of hot liquids. Broth, lemon herbal tea with honey, and apple cider were favorites. This herbal tea and apple cider packets are readily available at grocery stores, or you can order them online. I added real honey to the tea and a little cinnamon and nutmeg to the cider to boost the flavor and antioxidants. I did not care for the sugar-free apple cider. I also enjoyed healthy smoothies and juices and tanked on ice water. You have to drink lots and lots of nonsoda liquids to get better.
Prescription meds. Over-the-counter meds do nothing to relieve pneumonia symptoms. Save yourself some grief and get a good cough syrup prescription and an inhaler from your doctor. Also, don’t forget the probiotics if you’re taking antibiotics. Ask your doctor or the pharmacist to recommend some. Not all are equally effective. My pharmacist recommends Florajen3.
Relieve symptoms with naturopathic options. Sleep with a humidifier, and add menthol or essential oils. I bought this inexpensive assortment of oils a few years ago and am still using them with great benefit. This is the humidifier I’ve used with my family for several years. It does a great job.
Get a heating pad. Also, when you cough a lot, you can tear muscles in your core. My doctor said that’s common. After a month of hard coughing, I wrenched muscles in my stomach and back, making each successive cough extra painful. I slept with a heating pad. Make sure you have one or ask someone to loan one to you. This heating pad is similar to the one I bought a few years ago. I like that it has several heat settings and turns off automatically after two hours. So I fall asleep using it with no worries.
Have you had pneumonia or a related illness? What helped you to recover?