What's the best way to cope with having a suppressed immune system during winter?

I have CSS and am on 200mg azathioprine a day and 6mg prednisolone. It seems that just a common cold has more serious consequences resulting in me having to double my steroids for a short spell, asthma and breathlessness and feeling very lethargic. How do others cope with trying to avoid winter viruses and bugs? I do hand hygiene, have the flu jab and try to avoid people I know are ill. But it's very difficult when my colleagues come to work full of cold and i work in a hospital. I'm off work sick currently for the second time in 2 months, I've had to cancel several social things that have been planned for a while and i'm feeling a bit fed up. Any tips?

13 Replies

  • I wish I had the answer, Katie. I suffer the same, colds picked up frequently and all turn into chest infections which last for months and require at least one course of high strength antibiotics before they clear. My last chest infection lasted for 10 weeks! This never happened to me before I began taking immunosuppresants.

    I think you are doing all the right things but, as my GP said, you have to have a life so can't avoid people altogether. Avoiding stuffy rooms seems a good idea. Wiping all light switches, door handles, computer keyboards, phones, etc. with an anti-bac on a daily basis is vital, even if your colleagues think you are over careful! A friend of mine did this in her office after several winters when all staff were becoming infected regularly and it worked - no colds or flu all winter! I would definitely make sure I could place myself out of the contact range of people who had come to work with a viral infection. Can you talk to your boss about this and explain your vulnerability? I suppose you could wear a mask but this seems rather extreme!

    I will be interested in seeing if others have the same difficulties and whether they have found a way to cope.

    I do hope you soon feel better!


  • Hi Katie

    Obviously it will be impossible for you to avoid people in your situation.

    I don't know if this will help at all but I was told by the Rheumatologist that the immune system is kept at a level by the Azathioprine not reduced too much and then was told by my chest consultant (I have fibrosis on one lung) to get antibiotics sooner rather than later if I feel I have the start of a chest infection so it doesn't get a hold. In fact he advised me to keep some at home just in case.

    I have followed this advice and have only had to have antibiotics once this year so far. (I say that with fingers crossed!!!!) And when we went on holiday I took some with me just in case but didn't need them, so I have them in advance this year. My GP is very supportive and is happy with this advice.

    This was when I was particularly worried last year and this year I feel better about things as it was not as bad as I thought. I only caught one cold which was not as bad as I had feared. But I am not in the firing line like you are, and use hand gel and try to cover my face etc when out.

    Maybe I have just been lucky as I know some people do suffer.

    I hope you are as well.

    Take care


  • Hi Katie

    This is a difficult one isn't it? I would certainly speak to your line manager to see if you could be accommodated away from those with bugs (or they could be accommodated away from you). If you work in a hospital there must be an occupational health doctor who could liaise with your manager if you don't get any satisfaction.

    On a general note, we can't wrap ourselves in cotton wool and avoid people totally. All we can try to do is be sensible. I love the theatre but don't go as often as I would like and when I do go I pray that the people round me have used a bit of sense and not come when they have colds etc. Unfortunately common sense is in short supply with some people - "I've paid my money and I don't care who gets my germs".

    Good hand hygiene is essential, so always have some wipes for your hands after touching things which might cause problems - toilet flush, taps, toilet door handles, general phones at work etc.

    Hope you feel better soon.


  • I am a taxi driver and to solve the problem you mentioned I have an air sanitizer made by Oregon Scientific. They also make desk and office size units, so perhaps your employer might buy o e for your office.

    Mine must work because I had far less colds last winter than previous winters.

  • Thank you all for your advice and support. I will look into the air sanitizer, get myself some antibiotics and I've just bought myself some wipes for the office. I've always been quite hardy before and managed to work through coughs and colds without any breathing difficulties so its all taking a bit of getting used to.

  • You may also try the Pneumo vaccine. I read an article a few years ago about the benefit, had the vaccine and am certain it helped me out a few times. Sometimes my family all go down with something chesty and I'm fine. It lasts for years. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. This handles some of the viruses.

    Of course, as you say I also have the flu vac.

    Hope that's useful.


  • Thanks rod I have had the pneumo vaccine but good to know it works!

  • I have found my propensity to go down with colds/ chest infections has diminished considerably since I came off steroids completely. Also, WASH YOUR HANDS repeatedly with soap and hot water. I seriously think I now have OCD because I wash them so often! I also try not to touch my mouth, eyes or nose with my hands too much as this is an extremely easy way for viruses to enter the body. And the obvious one, try not to be exposed to people who are clearly unwell.

    Stay healthy! :-)

  • Thank you. I have a huge container of hand gel next to my desk at work I need to get into the habit of using it more!

  • I haven't got an answer, but if it helps, I know how you feel. There's a guy in my village who's like my own personal Typhoid Mary!

    I saw him twice during 2011, and both times I was hospitalised with a chest infection within days. He wonders why I avoid him now ;)

  • Weve been told as soon as my partner gets slightly ill either contact his consultant or our Gp to get antibotics straight away .

  • Weve been told as soon as my partner gets slightly ill either contact his consultant or our Gp to get antibotics straight away .

  • Hi I am currently on 20g Prednisalone and 1000g MMF for treatment for Wegeners GPA disease I want to go back to work and I am worried about the same thing it takes me much longer to get over colds flu etc I work in a primary school and I am concerned at how long I am going to last until I am off sick again. I have had 10 weeks off in total before diagnoses was made in July. This time I have been off for 5 weeks and not due to go back until January with a phased return. I fill like I am mucking people about but unfortunately you just don't know what bug is going to effect you. Keep going and just go slowly slowly. I know it is hard when you have been used to being on the go.

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