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Kate asked...

I pick up every single bug going.

Tags: Diet , Exercise , Headache

I am a 28 year old female (5ft 7, just under 11 stone). I have been unwell for 12 years, since getting a very bad dose of glandular fever aged 15/16. My immune system never seems to have recovered. I pick up every single bug going and always have headaches, sore throats, joint aches and pains and am unreasonably tired. I work 35 hours a week but don't have a lot of energy left for the rest of my life. I do try to exercise regularly, but during bad phases this can be a struggle. I eat healthily - I am vegetarian but eat protein in other forms. Can anyone help please?

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The answer

The immune system is still a bit of a mystery. If you have a significant illness affecting your immune system, you’re prone to ‘opportunistic’ infections – that’s infections that wouldn’t affect other healthy people. They include everything from fungal infections like aspergillus to Kaposi’s sarcoma. However, there’s huge variation in how often healthy people catch ‘normal’ infections like colds and tummy bugs. We do know that being underweight (your body mass index is in the ideal range) increases your susceptibility to infection. We also know that people who have a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly catch fewer minor infections such as coughs and colds. Some infections such as glandular fever can leave you feeling tired for months or even years afterwards.

I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that you have chronic fatigue syndrome without knowing a great deal more about your symptoms, but it’s worth looking at reputable information such as http://www.patient.co.uk/health/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-me. Feeling generally unwell for so long can have a bad effect on your morale and mental wellbeing, and a vicious cycle can build up, where you are more susceptible to the effect of minor infections or aches and pains because your mood is low.

I would always want to ensure that any patient who had excessive tiredness was checked out for other conditions such as diabetes, underactive thyroid or anaemia. Likewise, patients with severe recurrent joint pains need to be investigated for forms of arthritis caused by inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Answered by Dr Sarah Jarvis.


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