Differentiating between PEM and an actual infection

  • Every time I get PEM/a flareup, I wonder if I have covid or the flu. If I think back to before I got ME/CFS, the only time I can remember feeling the way I do with PEM is when I had swine flu. Actually, I probably didn't feel as bad with swine flu as I do with PEM but maybe that's because I knew there was an end in sight. I was certainly able to use my brain more than I can now.

    Has anyone here had covid or another serious respiratory illness since getting ME/CFS and if so how did it feel compared to your usual PEM symptoms?

  • Community Moderator

    Great question @river. Definitely finding its getting harder to tell and its never been a more important time to try to differentiate. Used to be a runny nose and/or build up of phlegm was the defining factor between flu and PEM for me but since a bad chest infection a few years ago those symptoms are now pretty regular as well. Often dismiss things as a bad crash until someone who has been visiting tells me they came down with a nasty bug after seeing me.

  • @gretch I developed chronic phlegm (post nasal rather than lung related) after a "mild" respiratory infection, long before I got ME/CFS. So you have my sympathies. Antibiotics helped mine for a bit but I couldn't stay on them indefinitely, for obvious reasons. So I just live with it now. Early warning signs of a propensity for chronic inflammation, maybe.

    A little over a year ago, right around the time covid was really taking off in Australia, I developed a new symptom - a mild but persistent dry cough/chest tickle sometimes accompanied by a slight chest ache. Of course the timing made me terrified at first, but I've had it on and off ever since and have come to the conclusion it's autoimmune in nature (maybe some kind of mast cell thing, possibly even caused by reflux). Scares me every time though.

  • So tricky! A runny nose was/is the main thing that tells me it is a cold or flu, rather than PEM. I don't sneeze with PEM either.
    I got to a point where I made life so small I had only slight symptoms, then I can look back a day or two and see when I have over exerted myself, that is the likely cause for PEM symptoms.

    PS A year ago I had a bad run with mucous running down the back of my throat and a tickly cough that got worse and worse. Not covid. Turned out to be dust mite allergy.

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