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We live in a world that is surrounded by germs that can sometimes make us ill and although the common cold will not kill you it’s not something you want before surgery. I don’t get sick often because I have a strong immune and my disability doesn’t make the common cold a serious threat to my health, but it can be a major inconvenience if I were to get sick days before my surgery. Doctors will not do surgery on a sick person even if it’s the mildest illness you can get because there are more risks of complications during surgery if you do it on someone who is ill than there would be if you were healthy. If my surgery was three weeks away and I only got the common cold, I would probably be better in time but if I got sick tomorrow I likely would need to reschedule because my surgery is next week which would be a pain because I would have to redo all the testing. Illness can affect anyone and even if you know you can’t get sick within the next week it still can happen because sometimes people will bring germs into your house unnecessarily and will give you the common cold. If you are awaiting surgery and trying not to get sick here are some things you can do to stay well.
Don’t hang around people that may have the common cold- When my surgery is a week out and I know that if I got the common cold I would not better in time I try to not hang out with people that aren’t certain they are not sick. Families should not come into the home of someone expecting surgery if they are ill because even if you don’t get me sick right away you could spread it to my caregiver that could possibly give it to me. There is nothing more annoying than getting sick two days before surgery because your friends weren’t thinking about how important it is that you stay well and gave you an illness that was totally avoidable. Surgery is not fun, and no one truly wants it but some people need it for better health and there is nothing more frustrating than needing to reschedule because someone you know didn’t think it would impact you that much and wasn’t thinking. If you have plans with someone before their surgery and get sick last minute, I don’t want you to suck it up and fake being well but appreciate it when you are honest and don’t bring me your germs even if you were looking to it.
Eat right and exercise– If your surgery is getting close, I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat well and exercise. A week or two before my surgery I prioritize exercise and try to not eat a lot of junk food because even if you won’t be able to exercise for some time after surgery it’s still a good idea to have healthy habits beforehand. I am not saying that you have to eat salads for every meal leading up to your surgery because that is an unrealistic expectation and it’s not something I would even do. I don’t get sick often but when I do it’s at the worst times and it’s usually because I was hanging around something who was ill or was not eating healthy. Vitamins and probiotics also are good before surgery because they can give you nutrients that your body may be lacking and the only time you should stop taking your supplements is if your doctor advised that you do. I love probiotics because it gives you good bacteria that keep your body working well and, in my experience, you don’t feel as horrible after surgery when you eat healthy all week.
Try to avoid highly populated area- When you go out and party a day before surgery you should not be surprised if you get sick because germs are everywhere and sometimes people are gross and go to the bathroom without washing their hands and touching things that you may also put your hands on. I am not saying that you need to stay home and isolate yourself months before surgery because no one is going to do that unless you have a weakened immune system and catch everything you come into contact with, but you should be smart about it. It can be hard to totally isolate yourself before a major surgery because sometimes you have to go to the store to get last-minute things for your recovery, but you should try to avoid being in crowded spaces. I am all about doing fun things before the pain of your surgery but is that trip to Disney two days before worth the risk of catching a random illness?
Do things that make you less stressed and sleep more– Surgery is stressful for everyone and if you are anxious or overly stressed sometimes it can be hard to fall asleep. Sleep and stress management is important for staying well and you don’t want to skimp on sleep because you will make yourself more vulnerable to illness and risk not being able to fight it off in time. Studies have shown that poor sleep affects your immune system and people that don’t sleep enough are more likely to get sick than those who sleep seven or eight hours. If you are overly stressed your ability to fight off infections is reduced and an illness that would normally take one week to recover from will take double that time. People that are struggling with their health often have more stress than those who are healthy and that is okay, but it shouldn’t make you so overwhelmed that it’s causing illness. If you feel like your anxiety is controlling your life while awaiting surgery do something to distract yourself and get your mind off of it! I have gotten anxious and been unable to have a bowel movement and if that can happen you can definitely give yourself the common cold from high anxiety levels!
Wash your hands-Hand washing is important all the time and you should always wash your hands but sometimes when people don’t when they are in a hurry. If you are expecting surgery or live with someone, who is you should wash them even more because not only is it gross to make someone a sandwich after blowing your nose without washing your hands, but it spreads sick germs, and you should want to protect the health of everyone especially those awaiting surgery or who are immunocompromised and are more negatively impacted my illness.
Sickness can happen to anyone and even people who have been awaiting surgery for months can get sick at the last minute but sometimes it is avoidable. You cannot control every virus that you may come into contact with, but you can stay away from people if you know you are sick to protect the health of others. Many disabled and chronically ill people are more impacted by illness and even though it’s only the common cold for you it may turn into pneumonia for your friend. When I get the common cold, I am not in a life-or-death situation, but it does impact me more than it does for abled people because I have shunt tubing in my pleural cavity which is by my lungs and it’s much harder for me to take a breath than it would be for someone without Hydrocephalus. You should never visit someone in the hospital if you are sick because even if I am not fighting a disease, it still makes recovery seem three times worse when you have to deal with pain on top of the flu. I hope you learned a few things about protecting others from illness that may be more vulnerable and are more mindful next time you think about bringing illness into someone’s home unnecessarily. How do you stay well before surgery?
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