Nobody wants to get a cold or the flu. But when you’re in a wheelchair, a cold or the flu can be especially problematic. Your lungs and bronchial tubes are harder to keep clear than the average person’s. And you run the risk of developing pneumonia. So it’s important to do everything you can to keep the flu — or a cold — from getting to you.
Your immunity is strongest when you’re healthy. Eating right and maintaining a regular exercise regimen won’t lower your exposure to bacteria and viruses, but it will boost your resistance. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist about the types of exercise that are right for your particular situation. Many wheelchair users enjoy water exercise. You may even find that you want to participate in an adaptive sport.
Stress can lower your resistance. If your stress levels are unusually high, consider meditating or just doing something that relaxes you — maybe knitting. Or practice deep breathing. This will also help to keep your lungs clear.
Finally, talk with your physician or nutritionist about an eating plan that will help you maintain your weight.
Protecting yourself with immunizations
Getting a flu shot is absolutely essential, but supplies of flu vaccine can vary from year to year. If you don’t know where to get the vaccine, or if you have trouble paying, try contacting the Muscular Dystrophy Association or the Multiple Sclerosis Society for assistance.
Also talk with your doctor about a pneumonia shot. Many physicians recommend getting a pneumonia shot every five years.
Minimizing your exposure
Make sure your family members and friends understand that catching a cold or the flu is especially problematic for you. Children bring bugs home from school, and your personal care assistant — if you have one — can easily spread germs from herself to you. Ask your assistant to get a flu shot. If your assistant does get sick, and there’s no one else to give you a hand, ask her to wear a mask, or wear one yourself. Frequent hand washing, meanwhile, is essential — and that includes you.
Handling a cold or the flu if you do get sick
Stay home and rest, and don’t go out again until a day after your fever disappears. Follow the standard practice of drinking lots of water and taking vitamin C. But also talk with your doctor about using an expectorant to keep your lungs clear.
At Power Mobility and Lifts, we understand how important staying healthy in a wheelchair is. We supply and service mobility equipment for customers throughout Arizona. If you have any questions, give us a call. We’re happy to help.
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