Woman with coffee reclining in bed.

How to survive, or at least ‘tolerate’, chronic illness flares.

Advice | How to survive, or at least ‘tolerate’, a chronic illness flares.

Chronic illness flares are nothing to joke about. They come on unexpectedly, last anywhere from a few minutes to hours, and are usually just brutal. The main way my chronic illness flares is through pain, general ‘achiness’, and if it’s my IBS – stomach cramps, and a lot of toilet time.

Mini heat packs that stick.

I love miniature heat packs. They’re usually sold for back or menstrual pain – as far as I’ve found. Whilst I do use them for both, the bigger ones are handy to wrap around the inside of my clothing to keep my wrists warm.

They’re pretty darn perfect for when I’m out of the house, and various body parts start to play up.

Thin layers are your friend!

Layering up wherever possible is the best thing for your body if you struggle with temperature regulation, it’s even more important if you have a pain disbar also. Temperature and pain are fickle breasts.

I’ve found that it’s also good idea to keep hats, scarves, and a pair of gloves close to hand just in case the weather turns unexpectedly. That way you can at least stop heat from leaving your body.

Have a basket or box full of activities you can do whilst in bed.

Books, crafts, air-dry modelling clay (a new find), and sex toys are all next to my bed.

Rest is boring, and there’s only so much Netflix I can watch before I need stimulation.

I also try to make sure that if I’m going through a particularly nasty flare I have a snacks by the bed that have a long shelf life, and the odd bottle of water or two. I know the last thing I want to do in a middle of a pain flare is move, but nutrition is necessary – or so I’ve been told.

Medications/mobility aids are nearby or dotted round the house.

I tend to have a bag of all my necessary medication – everything from painkillers, to cold/heat packs etc, in a bag in rooms I spend a lot of time in. That way if I’m in bed ill, or in the bathroom, and moving to get pills is impossible, I have a bag with my supplies ready.

If I can’t manage this, I at least make sure a strip of my necessary medication is in the right room – Buscopan in the bathroom, for example.

Make lists of lists, of lists.

I love lists. They’re something I’ve found that’s really helped me feel somewhat productive on my bad days where I do nothing. I also don’t keep my lists in a notebook anymore, I keep them on my phone in the iPhone ‘Notes’ app.

My lists contain a maximum of 10 things I need to do, and I don’t put a date for the items to be done by – just in case my flare lasts longer than I anticipated.

Keep a plastic bowel/empty container handy, and a flannel.

Might be a little bit of a weird one, but if I’m upstairs with a headache I don’t want to deal with lights and stairs to get a cool flannel. Instead I’ve a bottle of water, a bowel, and a flannel in one of my bedside draws, so I can dampen the cloth without spilling water everywhere.

It might not be ice cold, but it provides some relief. I’ve also found that the weight of the flannel can help also. A cold pack also works, but if I use them I use them with a flannel underneath – always protect you skin when using cold/heat packs!

Different variations of a similar thing.

Let’s talk about straws. I have TMD, and sometimes I can’t fit a normal straw/metal straw through my teeth, so I have really cheap straws to fit through the small gap I can make when my jaw locks. I also have paper straws if I need to sip on something like warm soup but don’t want the plastic taste.

The same theory can be applied to different situations. You have your everyday variation, and then one that’s easier or better for you to use on a bad day. For example, soap instead of shower gel when opening bottle caps is too painful, or big cutlery when the run of the mill set won’t cut it anymore.

Blankets, and electric heat pads.

I spend a lot of the day by myself usually, so the last thing I want to do is get up and down when my sciatica flares, or my feet are flaring. When this happens I have a few different blankets to cushion me/keep me warm, and even heating pads that I swap out for my hot water bottles.

Is there anything you’ve found particularly useful to get through your chronic illness flares? 

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