Monday, September 20, 2010

Alaskan Health Issues

I lived in one state for the first 30 years of my life. I've lived in Alaska for three years next month.

I believe I have been sick more times here in Alaska than I have the rest of my life. And those sicknesses have been longer, more miserable, and nearly piggyback to each other, especially this year.

In summer 2010, I've been significantly sick three times. The second time included strep throat and ear infections that caused some deafness. The first two each lasted a month long, give or take a few days. That means since May (the first illness of the summer), I've been sick every other month. The third one, I've been adding things back into my diet that may have curtailed it a bit, though it is still not gone.

So what's up? My doc mentioned a couple of things when I went in for the strep and ear infections:

One: We have a lot of tourists, people moving here from other countries, etc. They bring with them all manner of diseases that our bodies have never defended against previously. Even the most diligent of hand washers and antibacterial wipe users can still get sick if they haven't encountered certain bugs before.

Two: This summer was spectacularly awful. I still say the summer of 2008 (our first) was worse because we only saw the sun a handful of times; this summer started off with almost three weeks of gorgeous weather in May. I blamed my first illness this summer on the dust from the duplex building going on right next to our house. I've been more sensitive to dust since my first illness in Alaska (November 2007) was made quite severe by the extreme amounts of dust in the store I worked at.

But then it started raining. And raining. July was (I believe) the wettest July Wasilla has ever seen. And it kept on raining. The last couple of weeks here in September have been sunny, but fall is on the way and it's already getting cooler. First frost just a few mornings ago. Leaves are golden and starting to drop. Darkness is encroaching more and more.

My doc pointed out that Vitamin D is already hard to get the natural way here in Alaska, but a summer like we just had probably led to a seriously depressed immune system for me, judging by how many times I've been sick, and in such close succession. He told me to add a supplement to my diet, which I have.

I'm considering other options, too. One is a sun lamp, another is an air purifier. I wear a mask whenever I clean the house because my dog is a digger and brings tons of dirt into the house with her. I don't burn incense as much as I used to (though I do miss those sweet scents.) Since we've reached all our main purchase goals (house, vehicles, etc) we're considering what we want to add to our place to make winters more tolerable. I decided a sauna would be great, and fewer issues than a hot tub. Maybe we could put a sun lamp in the sauna for a little more "sun."

I'm trying to improve my diet, as well. Taking a multivitamin as well as extra D and calcium, but also trying to find good tasting fruits and veggies (that's kind of difficult in this state. Some of the fruit tastes like paper towels.) Adding lemon to my water helps me drink more water.

I admit that my fitness class schedule was probably a little much this summer, too: so many instructors going on vacations, and me not minding the extra money subbing for their classes, it was probably walking the line of too much. One eight-day period I taught 14 hours worth of exercise classes! I'm trying to curtail things a bit by learning to say "no" every once in a while.

I think the vitamin D has helped with this current cold: hardly any soreness, only one day of extreme mucus movement, and the last few days has just been an annoying cough that won't go away. It's still taking its own sweet time to stop, but the healing process is a little faster this round. It is my dearest hope that I reach a point that I experienced in California, only getting very minor colds that last no more than three days and happen once every couple of years. At the very least, I want to stop losing my voice every time I get sick.

No wonder most people who move here don't stay here. It's a very difficult place to live, for sure. Even my doc mentioned that everyone in Alaska should leave at least twice a year and stay somewhere warmer and sunnier, just for their health. I heartily agree. If only it weren't so expensive to do so!


Matthew said...

Your doctor's basically telling you Alaska's an unhealthy place to live. I'd get out of there yesterday if I were you. I know it feels like giving up, but it sounds like staying would just be masochism on your part.
(On a side note, now I know why I haven't heard from you lately!)

Sparklecat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sparklecat said...

You know, he did say that flat out - Alaska is not really meant for human living. But the odd thing is that Logan, who used to get sick more often than me, has hardly been sick up here. I guess Alaska agrees with his immunity better than it does with mine!

Last summer was really nice. We actually had what the locals would refer to as "hot" - in the 80s. If the summers would all be that way, maybe I wouldn't be having as much trouble as I have. >Sigh< Much as I miss my California family (you included, Matthew!), we're not ready to throw in the towel yet. I want to give it a solid five years first. We've got two left.

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