Thursday, August 20, 2020

pneumonia in Fargo

 I was reading some guy's description of having COVID-19, and he was talking about how his doctor told him there was nothing he could do for him, and he would have to just head to the ER if it got bad.  The guy described lying awake in a pool of his own sweat, high fever, hallucinating and wondering when it would be time to go if he would have enough strength.  He didn't want to expose his family or friends - and he didn't want to have to got to the hospital until he had to.

I've been there, but it was with a different pneumonia back in 2003, while I lived in Fargo, North Dakota.  I am prone to bacterial pneumonia, especially, because my sinus is malformed.  It collects 'junk' at one specific crazy spot and then in some conditions, it drops bacteria into my throat and lungs and I begin to get a yellowish-green snot and sputum that collects like 'threads' in my chest.  I can feel them when I exhale, and I cough them up like crazy.  The bad thing is when you stop coughing them up, and things dry out.. and you're not better - it turns into a dry heave and you feel like you'll break your ribs or break a blood vessel and cough up blood.  Been there, too... and within the past five years.

But what burned me the most about this poor man's letter was that his doctor told him he couldn't do anything for him.  And the doctor did not offer this man the many things he could do for HIMSELF to try to at least keep some agency and feel better from specific symptoms.  At least, the man doesn't tell us he did any of these - only that he laid there afraid and pouring sweat and waited for it to go away.

 That is the worst thing you can do.  Your state of mind affects your health as much as the illness.  If you lay there and wait for the 'boogie man' to finally go away, you have reduced your body's chance of fighting it.  Unless you are utterly too exhausted to get up and go to the kitchen or run a bath (and not because you haven't slept three or four hours), you should be doing one of these things or have done them within the past few hours to feel better.  If you don't have the energy for at least one of these things, or fear you will fall asleep and have already been asleep for most of the day - then yes, it IS time to go to the ER, to get another person etc- that is the danger zone with pneumonia.  That is where it turns from 'walking pneumonia' to bedridden.  And in 2003 we didn't have 'oximeters' in every home to check your O2 level.. but being too tired to get up and run a bath or make tea was a good sign.

I remember this specific pneumonia as the worst ever because at one point lying in my hallway having just slept most of the day, and my fever was probably quite high, and I was thinking really really hard about how to get to the bathtub.  The bathroom was right across the hall from my bedroom, but I got stuck there sitting in the hallway between the two confused and exhausted.  My brain was all fog, and it was like a million lights were on and making noise at me.  My first husband (now ex) worked overnights at a hotel at the time, and even when he was home he didn't really know what to 'do' with me being this sick.  I had to do it for myself.  Thank goodness we didn't have 'covid' going around at the time because that would have added his paranoid fear to my sickness and who knows what he would have done during that time.  I drug myself into the bath and cooled down, then I was a bit better to put the kettle on in the kitchen and sit there staring at it.  Hot green tea and honey and pouring sweat and then coughing fit after coughing fit, and finally back to the hallway, decide bed or bath etc.  And so on over and over in a cycle.  And I am 'immune' to opiate medications.  They had tried to give me a prescription cough medicine because I had cracked a rib coughing... but it did nothing for the pain and probably helped with the 'lights are making noise' issue, so I would not take anymore of it.  But through the overspiced soup / honey tea / sweat / bath / sleep / alarm / overspiced soup (repeat) routine I emerged out of the other side weak and pale, but better.

 You can :


If you have a whole-body fever that is 2 to 3.5 degrees higher than your 'normal' body temperature - you should be trying to reduce it with an ice pack to your forehead or towels or cloths dipped in cool water placed on your neck and arms.  Don't shock yourself, but try to bring it down gradually.  If your fever is concentrated in your sinuses, place the cool cloth there and dip back in cool water every few minutes.  

If you have a headache, you can place an ice pack on the forehead or back of the neck, and put your hands and feet into warm (not hot) water.  This will draw the blood flow down into your hands and feet and away from the part of your head that hurts.  This may help with throbbing.



If your sinuses are stuffed and nothing has helped, run hot water in a steam bath with some peppermint and/or eucalyptus oil (Dr. Bronner's soap works, too, as it has the oil in it).  Sometimes I don't even get in the bathtub at all - just sit in the room with the shower running water down into a small pan of water containing the soap - and the bathtub plugged to catch the overflow.  The steam rises in the room and I start to feel better


Drink tea with honey.  Honey is a natural antimicrobial that will help with what is infecting your sinus.  The warm to hot tea will help draw it there when you swallow it.  Boil the water, brew the tea, then stir the honey in just before you are ready to drink.  This keeps the good properties of the honey (that can be destroyed by heat) at their best right up until the moment you drink. Green tea is really good for this, but rosehip, hibiscus, orange, peppermint or lemon tea will also mix well with the honey.

Licorice tea (which you must be careful with, for too much too often can cause problems for some people with certain heart problems) with honey is the best for clearing mucus from the lungs.  Peppermint is next - you will often find Peppermint and Licorice in the same tea for this reason. 


If the weather is decent, get some sunshine, which helps provide Vitamin D (also in fish and eggs) and get a decent amount of fresh air.  Don't go out in a pouring down rain, or a 100 degree day (be sensible), but get natural ventilation when you can.  


 If you know you have a fever because of a bacterial infection you might want to sweat it out a little, to help it clear up.  The heat your body is trying to produce is because the bacteria can't stand being too hot - and might just 'die or get out' etc.. drink a good amount of liquids, including tea with honey and a source of vitamin C like orange juice, pineapple or tomato - and then wrap up in blankets and use your fever.  Sleep, but set an alarm so you are woken up in two to three hours to check your temperature.  Have a big glass of water or tea by your bed and drink as much of it as you can when you wake up to put liquid back into the mucus and hopefully cough it up.  If you ever get more than 3.5 degrees above your normal body temperature and 'just can't cool down', it's time for a cool bath or cloths - or the ER.

If your chest feels heavy or tight, but you are not extremely fatigued - you can place a hot (but not too hot) towel directly on the part of your chest that feels tight or 'caught up'... drink tea with honey or tea or coffee with a small amount of a strong br-andy or wh-iskey, about two tablespoons worth, and lemon juice, and within one or two refreshes of the hot towel you should begin to feel some relief.


Hot liquids help keep our sinuses moving along.  Chicken soup is a famous one, although I usually remove all the noodles and then spice the broth heavily with cayenne, onion, garlic, black pepper and turmeric curry powder, bringing it all to heat so that it combines.

Onion soup contains a natural expectorant property.  Make a strong onion broth or chicken broth with onion powder added to it and let to 'soak' for a minute or so.  The property in the onion is not immediately accessible but is released with heat and binding to a fat.  A bowl of hot onion soup or broth can get you beginning to clear mucus from your throat and lungs within the next half hour.  Too strong of onion you might get digestive issues - but it's a trade-off.  

Garlic, same as the onion but it also contains antibacterial properties that will help kill what bacteria might be growing in the sinus.  You can use garlic powder (not salt) raw (as in not cooked in, just sprinkled over top) over many foods to help, or eat actual raw garlic cloves.  Garlic is also great for abcesses if you can stand to hold the chewed raw clove up against the painful place for long enough for it to do some good.

 Cayenne, black pepper and jalapeno pepper can help as well because they make our noses and eyes water.  Cutting raw onions can help, because it makes your noses and eyes water and flushes things out.  Now, if you're around someone who is coughing and sneezing on you and you are rubbing your eyes afterwards that is a different story - but having a 'regular flush' of everything that collects can really help most of the time.  Black pepper also has a chemical called 'piperine' in it which is an anti-inflammatory, and it is helped to be accessed by the body by adding turmeric and a fat source (see below).

 All of these, cayenne, onion, garlic - can be carried best with a little bit of fat and also help access fat-soluable vitamins in the onions and peas and so forth - use full fat butter or chicken broth with the fat in it.  

Pea soup (with onions) made from split peas.  This will add iron, and zinc, and help bring the expectorant quality of the onion to you as well.  The zinc is a known help against some qualities of virus reproduction, and the soup will help coat your throat with it.  It really can't hurt you much at the very least, and it also contains vitamin D to help with your immune system.  It is a known fact that pea soup can bring back someone's sense of smell when it has been temporarily lost.  How odd that is one of the covid symptoms?  It is actually considered to be a feature of the amount of magnesium that pea soup contains, and lack of smell is a sign of magnesium deficiency.

To avoid : Lots of high sugar foods (you are feeding the bacteria in your sinus with sugar) and milk products (for most sinus stuff, it's also 'food' for the bacteria).  The very very worst thing I've ever done for sinuses is known I was about to get an infection and had a bowl of ice cream.  Bad idea!  

To avoid : Mixing lots of OTC medications.  Don't!  Always follow the instructions of the medication or your doctor.  It can be hard when you're tired and sick and the last thing didn't help etc.. but hopefully one of these other things helped some, too.


Other helpful things I knew - from having pneumonia - long before I read all of this covid stuff?  Lay on your stomach 'proning' was not new to me.  Also, laying on your stomach in a shallow bath with peppermint or eucalyptus oil helps you breathe in the steam and also helps with coughing out any mucus that is loosened.  

 Sleeping on your stomach or 'mostly' on your stomach on your side will help the mucus not collect down in your lungs while you sleep as much.  It also frees up the space in the back of your ribcage for the lungs to expand more.  This is NOT new info, but people had to hear about it like it was to start doing it.  If you wake up and your nose is clogged on one side, switch sides.  Raise / elevate your head with pillows to help snot go down the correct pathway in your esophagus and not to your lungs.  If you wake up coughing and it feels like it just will not come out - your whole chest is on fire - hang your head down off the side of the bed for a moment to see if that convinces it.  That brings blood to your head and neck and assists gravity.

Coughing out mucus is easiest from the 'on all fours' position because it puts the lungs in the best possible position for the cough to be effective.  I learned that more than thirty years ago when I had my first case of pneumonia in Minnesota.  It was common knowledge back then - we've just forgotten so many of these things!

 And the biggest thing of all was to keep a positive attitude but be wary enough to know when you need some help.  The moment you are 'giving up' is the moment the sickness is going to kick your butt.  Don't give up, but don't lie down and not get back up either.  Lying in bed, even waited-on-hand-and-foot while you have walking pneumonia is a surefire way to make it worse, not better, as the mucus will settle in your lungs.  Get sleep, but set your alarm so you can check your own condition at least every four hours (closer together if you are checking fever and it is high.. further apart if your fever has started to break and you have begun being able to clear your lungs well) - then do the most natural next part of the cycle, and work around to sleeping some more.