• Nikki Latham

Quality Of Life Affected Just By A Cough Or Cold When You Have Fibromyalgia

This is another in our series of stories about life with fibromyalgia, if you haven't read the others these are available on the Chesil Radio website.

Today, we tackle what it's like to have a common cold or flu with fibromyalgia. Often, it's a way that we describe our symptoms to those who don't understand, by saying imagine having the worst flu you ever have and have it for life and add some other nasty conditions, that many might understand alone added to the mix.

When you have the flu on top of fibromyalgia, it can mean that you just can't cope like most. This is not one to read if you are about to eat, it is a little unpleasant in its detail.


When you have fibromyalgia it takes an awful lot to realise that we might have flu or even just a cold. Imagine that the meds that are prescribed means that you can't take cold and flu medications to sort the issues that most would take to make them feel a bit better. There is nothing extra you can take, so you have to replace daily prescribed meds for more flu targeted medication, which means you suffer more pain and then more fatigue.

For fibromyalgia sufferers, its often the loss of voice or sore throat that is first indication of the starting of a cold, not good for a radio presenter. Sinusitis (NHS definition: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sinusitis-sinus-infection/) is a great fibromyalgia symptom which mimics a cold and then the mucus drains into the throat making it sore or cough at extreme. But it mimics a cold and can come on at any time of the year, but imagine this with a cold on top, or an allergic reaction, including hayfever, etc and that's why it's difficult to tell.

A standard recovery from sinusitis is about 2 to 3 weeks, but with fibromyalgia, once you start coughing, you have to deal with your throat going into spasm, as a muscle, and you can cough until it bleeds, you can cough till you can't catch your breath and in some cases you need to be sick to clear your throat of the amount of mucus that sinusitis creates in the extreme and without that you can feel like you are choking on the mucus unable to breath.

But it doesn't end there, because of the cough, fibromyalgia triggers other muscles in the process of coughing, the abdomen feels like it has done a thousand sit ups and full workout, but the more frightening is chest pain, called costochondritis (NHS definition: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/costochondritis/), which mimics the pain of heart attacks, and if you read the NHS link it says you must get immediate medical help, however if you mention it by name, the emergency services aren't that worried as the definition makes out. But it is incredibly painful and like a pulled muscle at minimum or shooting pain around the rib cage at worst, even when the coughing stops, the costochondritis can still feel like catching a painful stitch or being jabbed in the side for months after. The cold weather can also make it worse years after you have your first costochondritis attack, so you have to be so careful long after the cough has gone.


Fibromyalgia sufferers have hyperalgesia to deal with daily, which is an amplification of pain, but those extra efforts to breath, can be enough to floor them for months. Fibromyalgia is often called not progressive, but it does seem to as the years and decades go on and recovery takes longer each time.


So when I take time out from the radio, I am genuinely in need to do so, my recovery from my latest bout of allergic reaction to a suspected fruit included in a beer at a beer festival, no ingredients has to be declared when it’s in a barrel unlike a can or bottle, has put my life on hold for nearly a month. Even with just a little voice and in extreme pain, that I am still in, when I am presenting behind that microphone you can't see me, probably best as my face was extremely swollen this time and I did look ill, but when the voice goes completely, it’s just so frustrating, but I take the words of the doctors "rest, rest, rest" and I hope this helps you understand one element a little more of what it's like to try and present a show on the station with this disability that is hidden and invisible.

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