When a Fever Amplifies Your RA Symptoms

I am hardly ever a person who gets a fever. To be honest, I can count on one hand the number of fevers I experienced during this past year. And even though it doesn't happen frequently, it affects my body in numerous ways, so I must have a plan in place for this.

I felt the familiar feelings creeping in

Last fall, my daughter brought home a virus known as human metapneumovirus (HMPV) from preschool, and while she was down for about 3 days, it brought me DOWN when I got it. I had fevers close to 104 degrees, body aches, a cough, low SpO2, and low blood pressure.

I had gone to urgent care thinking maybe I had the flu or a sinus infection, and from there, I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room due to bilateral pneumonia and low stats. I needed to be on oxygen for several days (along with IV antibiotics and fluids) to recover.

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Recently, I felt the familiar feelings creeping in. I was freezing — like teeth-chattering, fold-up-into-a-pretzel, layer-on-all-of-the-blankets kind of cold. My eyes were burning, and sure enough, when I took my temperature, it registered at 102.7. No, thank you!

What I've learned to do when high fevers strike

Throughout this experience, I've learned to do the following:

  • Do what I can during the day to take care of myself, since my fevers are higher at night.
  • Keep multiple sets of clothes nearby so when those dramatic temperatures come, I don't have to urge myself to get out of bed to get the things I might need.
  • Have multiple fluid options within reach. I've been excessively thirsty, but sometimes I know that I need electrolytes or caffeine, something beyond just water.
  • Stress-dose my steroids for my adrenal insufficiency.

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The importance of doing a 'body scan'

Another coping strategy I utilize is doing a body scan. Body scanning is important. I noticed that my knees, ankles, wrists, and fingers were aching pretty strongly. It made me realize that during the teeth chattering portion of the fever cycle, my body gets pretty rigid — thus causing stress to my already sad joints.

This meant sending a message to my rheumatologist, asking if I could do anything to support my body during this time. It also means using my heated blanket when I'm that cold to help support my joint pain and taking a fever reducer/pain management medication like Tylenol regularly.

What do you do to manage symptoms of severe illness?

While I wish the tips above meant my experience has gone smoother, that isn't the case. I'm still in the thick of this virus, whatever is taking me down, but I wanted to share some advice in real time on things I'm trying to do to help myself so that if you find yourself in the same situation, you can use this list in the moment, not in retrospect.

If you're someone who struggles with fevers periodically or even regularly, I'd love to know what else you do to try to calm down your hypersensitive body, especially with regards to RA. Are there any products or medications that make your experience easier? Could you share below?! I'd love to know that I'm not alone.

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