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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My tombstone will read "I told you I was sick."

I got sick.  That is such a surprise, isn't it?  I'm sure it was to my family and friends who probably never tire of hearing the words "fever" "pustules" and "antibiotics" after my 28 years on this Earth.
It wasn't any big thing, just a fever with sinus pressure, swollen lymph nodes in the throat, and those beautiful white pustules on my tonsils.  Easy, peasy course of antibiotics to cure strep and sinusitis.  Great.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Except that after my 5 day dose pack of azythromycin I still had a sore throat and was having trouble breathing.  I have asthma but my inhaler wasn't helping.  After a sleepless night I called the doctor's office and told them what was happening- no fever at this point.  They called in another antibiotic to kick whatever it was to the curb for good. (I would also like to note that this is the end of March, officially the beginning of spring.  This is my first spring living in the Midwest, which I know means I am being exposed to new allergens my system might not be used to fighting.  I am fully aware that these symptoms could also be just allergy related, which is probably why these questions are swirling around in my head.)

See the thing is, I am treating with a biologic, Enbrel, injected once a week, which- I'm sure many of you know- suppresses the immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections, especially of the respiratory system (I'm guessing because that is what we are most often exposed to in daily life.)  And since I work at a doctor's office, I come into contact with about 30+ strangers per day.
So this second round of antibiotics raises the question very prominently in my head of over exposure to antibiotics in general.  See, here's the thing: I'm only 28.  This is a life long, chronic illness, who's drug therapy usually involves suppressing the immune system.  I have a LOT of years left on this Earth which means a lot of years of immunosuppressants, which means a lot more respiratory infections to look forward to.

Every time I have to take an antibiotic, aren't I bringing myself a step closer to developing A) an intolerance to the drug and B) the likelihood of allowing a resistant strain to take hold in my system?
Do you guys ever worry about this?  What is the long term implication of my being treated for constant systemic infections as a result of my drug therapy?  Do I have to worry about the future, about being a non responder to the commonly used antibiotics?  How do you approach this kind of thing with your doctor?  Do you try to find a happy medium between treatment and deferral?

I'm interested to hear what others have to say about this!  Maybe I'm just over thinking things.  Or, maybe you've addressed this with your doc and have good advise for the rest of us.  Let us hear it!


  1. I worry about reactions to drugs. In fact they've been a major source of illness and distress in my life. I have allergies to some drugs and sometimes combinations of things, like once I was taking an NSAID and it reacted with a new makeup I bought. Sometimes I've jokingly told the doctor I will get the side effects of a drug whether I've read about them or not. It's not funny, really. I loved your title.

    1. Toby- that is an excellent point! I wrote about never feeling like using my make-up, but I should go further with the idea that we have to be careful what we use. So many of us have skin involvement. I love that you are using humor to cope with your doctor, but I totally understand what you mean about it not being funny- I joke all the time about things, but the truth is it just plain sucks.

  2. Hi. So I have had RA for about 2 years now and am also currently on Enbrel. I've had strep 3 times since being on immunosuppressant drugs. But I have always been super susceptible to strep anyway. I had it so much as a toddler that they took my tonsils out and still had it enough that I ended up with Rheumatic Fever from an untreated strep infection when I was 13. Soooo, if I or my doctor even think I have strep, I take antibiotics. I do not want Rheumatic Fever again! But you bring up a very good point...

    1. Edie, thank you for sharing! That is a perfect example of why it is so scary to think of not treating an infection once you know you have it- they can get so much worse! That's exactly why we should all always see our doctor as soon as we have symptoms, whether we want treatment or not, we need a professional to help decide!