Thursday, 16 July 2009

My Swine Flu Update

Just in case you were wondering what happened to me, another 6 days later and I am still coughing! The antibiotics have certainly taken the edge off the illness by putting a halt to the secondary bacterial infection that was starting, and took the pain away that was developing in my chest, but I was left I think with a lingering case of viral bronchitis that wasn't going anywhere fast.

Realising that modern medicine didn't have much to offer me I looked into some natural remedies and then went out and bough a big bag of licorice and a bottle of cinnamon leaf oil. Not sure how much effect the licorice has, but I have been surprised at the almost instant relief to my symptoms and also lift to my mood that I experienced from just a drop of cinnamon leaf oil (not to be placed on the skin or taken orally, but just inhaled, and not in large quantities either, just one drop seems very strong).

The day after (which was yesterday) I was feeling much better, but then in the afternoon and evening, and well into the night (2am) I did some more heavy duty coughing as whatever must have been lodged deep in my lungs from the now shifting illness started to make a move up.

Not nice to detail, but for medical purposes I will tell you that it was yellow and incredibly sticky stuff like I have never experienced before in my life. Even though I was feeling much better in myself, it was at times a little scary getting this stuff up as I started to wonder whether the sticky stuff might block my airway altogether, so did some steaming with Vicks in hot water and a towel over my head which I think helped, as did another drop of the cinnamon leaf oil.

Finally got to sleep at 2.30am, too exhausted (again) to cough any more. Hoping for further improvement in my condition today! (yes that doesn't sound like improvement, but all the while I have been feeling better in myself like the infection is diminishing).

The other symptom I forgot to mention was a white furry tongue with red spots - we've all had it. I was one of my first symptoms, nearly four weeks back now, and I noticed I still have it today. I think that when my tongue returns to normal I will know that I am finally better.

4 weeks ill with the swine flu: week 1 getting ill, week 2 definitely ill getting worse, week 3 getting better in the mornings then relapsing in the afternoons, week 4 fighting off the secondary bacterial infection and then starting to get better (I think/hope). Who said this thing would be gone in 7 to 10 days?

Let me make this clear, I am a fit and healthy women in mid 30s, my husband also (although not a woman!) suffering the same duration of illness, my father too, in his 60s, but also fit and healthy. My younger sister (in 20s) was also ill for weeks, but I think closer to 3 than 4 weeks. My son, aged 4 (also normally healthy), was ill a few days sooner than us, was more seriously ill at the beginning (very high temperature in particular) but seems to have recovered much quicker (although again this morning a touch warm and a little cough so I hope nothing is returning).

I can understand why pregnant women are at high risk since there is no way I could have managed the heavy duty coughing in my third trimester.

Lots of reports around that this is no more serious than seasonal flu. I have had seasonal flu a couple of times. Seasonal flu made me feel awful, very achy, heavy head cold, extremely week, but at no time concerned that what I had could be life threatening. With this I didn't feel as achy or wiped out, but the cough is the worst I have experienced (bar the whooping cough I had as a young child that I still remember) and at times when I was fighting to get the stuff out of my airways I was truly scared as to how much worse things were going to get and very aware of my mortality.

When my mother started to develop symptoms a few days ago she took no messing around - knowing that it is only effective if taken in the first few days of symptoms she insisted that the doctor prescribe her Tamiflu since she had seen how much my father had suffered and she was not prepared to go through the same. Good for her I say! Not normally very assertive, she was well informed and took her health into her own hands - she had strong evidence to suggest that we had the swine flu, that she was developing it, and knew that the Tamiflu had to be prescribed straight away if it was to be of any effect, and had the courage to call her GP and argue her case. I think this was sensible. The rest of us did not ask for Tamiflu since we knew it was too late for us. My father was prescribed it even though he had been ill for 3 weeks, and confirmed that it had no effect on him whatsoever, but my mother is feeling her condition improve rather than deteriorate, thanks to her own swift action.

Now finding a 'flu buddy' who would be prepared to visit my mother for her id and prescription, and then travel to the Tamiflu distribution centre to wait with other 'swine flu buddies' (risking their own contamination) - that's a different story (a strategy that has obviously not been clearly thought through and I have to tell you does not work for even those people that have lots of friends in the community - so how it should work for someone that is more isolated I don't know).

Now if you want more information on swine flu, I have to tell you that you won't find a better source than the MedWorm swine flu updates (every hour, compiled from nearly 7,000 sources):
- Swine flu official news
- Swine flu in the medical blogs
- Swine flu discussions (join in by commenting on any of the swine flu articles in MedWorm)

If you have just stepped into my blog here, make sure to also read my posts on when I first realised I had swine flu and also about my swine flu recuperation. There's also now one more post about my swine flu episode that comes after this one, which talks about a swine flu anxiety attack I experienced, to round off my experience.


  1. Hi Frankie

    I've been reading your blog since I came down with a virus over 10 days ago. Our symptoms have a number of similarities - in fact, your original posting prompted me to seek antibiotics from my doctor. I'd agree with much of what's been said in your updates - whether related to swine flu or not - this is no walk in the park. This is the first time I've been uncomfortably ill as a proper adult - (pushing the wrong side of 30!) - and it will undoubtedly give me cause to reassess my life when its finally over. (Btw, that bit about Cystic Fibrosis made my blood run cold).

    Sure I’ve had chesty coughs related to colds, etc over the year’s, but ever since I was young I’ve always found It difficult to understand how anyone could be in danger from something relating to a bronchial infection, even in less enlightened times. My father’s mother died when he was 17 from a bronchial disorder in the 50’s, and I now I think I have a much clearer understanding.

    Without wishing to be overly dramatic, I’m suffering from quite severe sleep deprivation. Ever since the cough materialized I’ve been averaging approximately 1-3 hours of sleep a night for the last 9 days. Nighttime has become a waking nightmare. At midnight my throat and nasal passage becomes incredibly sensitive and I just can’t stop coughing. This only eases off at around 5-6am. I catch most my sleep (if you can call it that!) between 7 and 10am. This is obviously worrying – and at times during the last week I’ve felt quite low.

    I’m sorry to hear your symptoms have been dragging on for so long. I must admit it’s something I didn’t want to read from a personal perspective! On a more positive note I’ve noticed over the last couple of days I’ve felt a lot better – appetite slowly returning, nasal congestion easing, less catarrh, less coughing – even if the nights are still total rubbish (last night was the worst yet). I’ll never take sleep for granted ever again.

    Cheers. Paul

  2. Hi Paul,

    So nice to hear you have been following my blog, sorry it is in such circumstances. I was also really pleased as well to hear that it prompted you to seek antibiotics - I think we are so conditioned these days to think they won't be of any use, since they are ineffective against viruses, but often people do develop secondary bacterial infections as a result of a virus and I know there is a real risk of bacterial pneumonia with the swine flu.

    I understand exactly what you mean when you say night time has become a waking nightmare, it was for me too, and I was completely exhausted. My father by the way said that Sudafed really helped him to sleep at night, although I didn't try it. I know it helps reduce the mucus in the nasal passage, I don’t know about whether it does the same for the lungs or not - might help you too? (of course I should mention here for legal reasons that I am not a doctor and make sure you do get your own doctor's advice! having a medical website I have to be so careful of all this legal stuff). Don’t feel guilty about sleeping in the day – even now I am still quite tired and whenever I get the chance I just lie down for half an hour, only too aware of how fragile I still am.

    Now I have a draft blog posting that has been sat there for several days that I was unsure as to whether I would ever post since it is quite personal (and might have many put me down as a crazy woman!) but after hearing your feedback I am prompted to post it after all.

    The low feeling you mention I think is part of the illness too. I became quite depressed, as did other members of my family. A combination of exhaustion, the inability to cope with basic tasks in life (my housework for one, my children for another) and the feeling that I was just totally fed up with coughing and wanted to be well again. I got to the stage where I just kept saying ‘I’m so sick and tired of coughing, I just want to be well again!’. You can read more about where I got to in my next posting.

    Hopefully you are past the worst now. Give yourself ‘plenty’ of time to heal. Try to relax. Watch some comedy. Listed to some nice music. Enjoy listening to the birds singing; look at the clouds and the blue sky. A time I think to go back to the basics in life. Focus on those little beautiful things in life and you will get better, your sleep will return and you will slowly gain strength, with a much greater appreciation of health.

    Do let me know how you get on! Frankie

  3. Frankie

    Its just nice to hear that someone else has been experiencing similar problems. I’m not entirely sure how Sudafed could help tbh - I no very little about the product. Would it help desensitize my throat?

    I’ve never experienced such difficulties sleeping over a prolonged period of time and I understand why you’ve felt so low – I must admit I lost the plot a few times in the beginning. You start hankering after normality – I can’t even remember the last time I had a decent nights sleep. Even when I’m feeling better during the day I can’t concentrate on many tasks because of the tiredness.

    Like I said in my original comment, when this is all over things will be changing! Life isn’t a rehearsal. I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and admit to throwing my youth away too cheaply. At the start of the week I took a couple of really pleasant walks in some local woods and stumbled upon a young deer unawares (guess he thought most humans would be at work on a Tuesday morning), and for some reason it really hit home to me.

    Oh well, It’s almost nearing the dreaded witching hour – bed time!

    Cheers for now.


  4. Hey Paul, how are you doing now?

    Sorry I didn't reply to the question about Sudafed. I can only tell you that my Dad said it helped him to sleep at night and he seemed to cough less after taking it (and relax more) before he went to bed. I only know what I have read on the net, so probably best you do your own research on it than me reinterpret something maybe wrong.

    Would be good to hear how you are doing - hopefully on the mend now.

    All the best,