Many Rheumatoid Arthritis drugs are immuno-suppressant. That means that they work by reducing immune cells or impairing the function of certain types to immune cells. While this usually helps to reduce RA symptoms, it leaves the RA patient with lowered ability to combat invading bacteria.
There are several steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of harm due to living with a suppressed immune system. I call this practice “Preventative First Aid.” Sometimes, there’s just not a convenient word to choose “off the racks.” So I made up this expression.
At first, Preventative First Aid sounds like an oxymoron. Regular first aid is usually used to provide immediate assistance after an injury occurs. Preventative First Aid is designed to prevent injury or illness.
It can be used to mean either preventing minor injuries from occurring or preventing them becoming more serious. Often, this means taking special care, the way a diabetic does with his feet. He cannot allow even the opportunity for infection.
Here is a list of some of the ways that I have learned to practice Preventative First Aid. I hope you will list more of your own in the comment window below.
* Wash your hands and keep your own clean towel, not a community towel.
* Wear gloves when using tools which could injure hands (rubber gloves, gardening gloves, or latex gloves – I love the blue ones sold at Sally made for hair coloring). Tight gloves do hurt to put on, so buy them large.
* Wear Band-Aids to protect a particular finger when using tools which are sharp like a sewing needle or a paring knife.
* Thimbles are nice, but they can be too difficult to use. It just depends upon the finger in question. I did find at a quilt store a new soft latex thimble that is much more comfortable.
* Minimize sores, infections, and decay in the mouth by using impeccable dental hygiene. Floss daily. Disinfect any mouth appliances with a good professional cleaning agent (I like Smile Again – you can buy it online). My dentist also cleans my night guard while I receive my regular check-ups, a must.
* Prevent cracks in the skin with the regular use of lotions, especially after frequent hand washings and before bed.
* Protect any small cracks in the skin from becoming infected. Keep antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid handy (I keep some in my car or purse) to treat any minor scratch, burn, or pinprick before it gets infected. I have learned to inspect my hands at bedtime; it is amazing how many times I have awoken with finger infections that are hot and red because of a tiny cut which seemed barely visible before. This can be prevented.
* To prevent being cut, use whatever scissors are most comfortable to cut food in the kitchen - instead of using a knife.
* Take in lots of healthy foods and vitamins. Don’t cut corners on protein or vegetables. Your body needs them to rebuild tissue and you’ll feel stronger, too.
* Prevent dehydration. Hikers and scouts know that this helps to prevent illness or injury from becoming more serious. For RA-ers, it is important because water dilutes toxins and transports nutrients within the body.
* Eat pro-biotic foods like yogurt. These healthy bacteria may strengthen proper immune responses in a suppressed immune system. They also help the digestive system to deal with the stress of medications. Some researchers also think that pro-biotics may even have anti-inflammatory properties.