Getting the flu while you have a mental illness can present problems if you aren’t proactive and informed. Here are five essential guidelines for coping with mental illness and the flu.
1. Mixing Meds & The Flu
If you are taking medication for mental illness, and you are prescribed any other medication, such as an antibiotic (sometimes the flu can lead to bacterial infections), let the prescribing doctor know what medications you are taking. Also, remind the pharmacist and double-check with your psychiatrist if you have any doubts about mixing medications. If you are taking MAO inhibitors, there can be problems taking if antibiotics. If you are taking different types of psychiatric medications, there may be problems, too.
2. Meds & Food & The Flu
If you have the flu, you might have a loss of appetite from fever. Or, you might have diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting and may not, obviously, feel much like eating or drinking. However, it is essential to eat if you are on most psychiatric medications. If you don’t eat, and take meds, the meds might not work well or might have an increased chance of side-effects. You might even experience a relapse in your mental health recovery. If you are simply too sick to eat, let your psychiatrist know right away (or call your pharmacist.) Either way, make sure you still drink plenty of fluids so you don’t dehydrate.
3. Therapy & The Flu
Call your therapist and let him or her know you are sick. Reschedule your appointment, or, if possible, ask your therapist if you can have a brief phone appointment instead. You might be too tired for more than 15 minutes or so, but keeping in touch can feel like a life-line when you are sick. No matter how tempted you may be, do not keep your regular therapy schedule if you are sick. It is dangerous to exert yourself by going out if you have the flu. Plus, you could easily get your therapist sick!
Anyone who has the flu feels rotten. If you have a mental illness, you may feel even worse. You should use your network of support and make sure that concerned advocates, friends, and family are checking in with your twice daily at the very least, especially if you live alone. Unsure about who to call for support? Here’s a short list: family members, friends, neighbors, roommates, case manager, therapist, psychiatrist, online chats and forums, and so on.
You might be apprehensive about admitting yourself to the hospital, but if you feel that you are heading towards psychiatric decompensation, it’s better to be proactive and get treatment before serious symptoms arise.
Call 911 for help or call anyone in your support network and ask them to get you help.
Hope you don’t have the flu, but if you do, GET WELL SOON.
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Last reviewed: 15 Jan 2013