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Do You Quit Life with a Cold?

On Friday afternoon, my eyes started watering while we were reading Harry Potter.

(A side note: my kids and I are going to have the widest asses in the world because my go-to activity is always to sit and read.  I’ve been thinking about this, the ass spreadage, that my kids will have to deal with down the road.  And how they’ll tell the therapist: “we wanted to run around and play, but my mother always suggested we read.  Sure, we covered a lot of literature, but now look at my butt cheeks.”)

Back to my story and question.

We were reading Harry Potter and my eyes were leaking, which was sort of good because we were at the part where the kids all discovered the truth about Neville’s parents in the hospital.  When Neville puts the bubblegum wrapper in his pocket?  GUTS ME.  So my eyes were watering.  By nighttime, I was sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy-headed, and feverish, so I swigged some Nyquil and went to bed at the unheard-of hour of 9 pm.  That’s how you know that I was ill.

I woke up on Saturday morning not much better, though once my headache started to subside and I had been upright for a while with everything draining, life became liveable.  Still, we cancelled our trip to see family so as to not get them sick.  Plus, it was likely that the twins would now become sick this week from being in close proximity to me while I was ill.  They were already in the sniffling stages when they awoke.  So it made sense to not run them ragged.  But there was this underlying feeling that if I could travel with tissues, we should just get on the road.

Every time I get sick, I try to figure out where I was two or three days earlier, the average incubation period for a cold.  In this case, the culprit seemed to be either art school or the used bookstore.  I can’t really avoid art school, so I decided to blame the used copy of Mockingjay that I picked up so I could stop reading the e-book version.  It was clearly teaming with cold germs.  Though the more likely scenario is that someone sent their kid sick to the art school because they didn’t want to miss out on one of the paid classes since there are no refunds.

I get it.  I’ve gone into public spaces less than well before.  I’ve sent my kids to school when they were fever-free but had a bit of a runny nose.  I mean, yes, we all want people to stay at home when they’re ill and not infect the rest of us, but the reality is that some people have a runny nose through half of winter.  And it would be equally detrimental to stay home, nursing every cough.  Again, one time I had a cough that lasted a good month.  I can’t see not venturing out into public for a full month.  Except by going out around people, we pass these germs to one another so that everyone gets to write a blog post about the crappy, nameless person who made them ill.

When you get sick, do you stay home?  Or if you feel like you can power through, do you go out into the world, sneezing and coughing and carrying tissues?


1 ANDMom { 01.26.14 at 8:51 am }

As much as possible, we try to stay home when we’re sick. Yes, sometimes the kids go to school with a runny nose and associated cough – as long as the drainage is clear, they have no fever, and they have energy, and don’t need to be blowing their noses all the time.

One of our kids is immunocompromised – he ended up admitted to the hospital last year for a bad cold-turned-ear infection. Right now he has a runny nose/ear infection but he can’t digest any food because his gut shut down. For some people a cold is not just a cold – and because we live that life, I try to keep it in mind before heading out in the world sick. If we have to go out, we keep to ourselves, don’t touch toys in the doctor’s office, lots and lots of hand washing.

We do the best we can to be mindful of others – and thoroughly appreciate when others are mindful of us.

2 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 01.26.14 at 9:57 am }

We went to a fast-food-playground-place-that-shall-not-be-named the other day, because I was desperate for some downtime while the boys were equally desperate for some run-crazy time. And it was us, and three other sibling sets, the rest of whom were drippy-nosed and coughing. I was LIVID PISSED. Who takes their snot and cough riddled tiny child (tiny, as in probably less than 2 yrs old, so totally unaware of where their germs go, nose wiping, covering mouths when coughing, etc.) into an enclosed PUBLIC place when they’re obviously very sick???

And then, when my boys inevitably caught it two days later, I noticed a drip in one kid when we were on the way to an outdoor playground to meet some friends. And then, he started coughing, and I went into denial, how he was probably coughing because he was running around in the semi-brisk air after being cooped up for weeks. And then, we went to dinner with some of these friends, and I was purple-blushed embarrassed when drip-nosed, cough-kid proceeded to turn his head and cough *directly* on the Papa part of said friend-family, not once, but TWICE. I was mortified.

So, short answer is that, no, we try to keep our germs to ourselves, but sometimes, my brain’s need for sunshine and fresh air, especially when it’s one of those brief warm-ups in the midst of a harsh winter, overrides my better senses, and tells me that my kids aren’t sick, not really, not *that* sick at least…

Anyhow, if the JERKY PARENTS OF THOSE OTHER KIDS had kept their little germ factories at home when they were sick, we wouldn’t have had this problem in the first place. Grr.

In the winter, though, it does become the “should we hole up and NEVER go to the Y (the usual germ culprit), or should we just accept that winter is one long snot-fest?” question, over and over again…

3 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 01.26.14 at 10:03 am }

Well this is very timely for us as we contemplate whether the kids are ready to go back to school tomorrow after their illnesses.

It’s a struggle, to be honest. If you’re obviously infectious then staying home makes sense. But you’re right – shutting yourself in for a month doesn’t sound reasonable (especially when you live in an apartment).

I would say that after a certain point we venture out as long as things seem to have subsided. I feel better about taking myself out because I can be more hygienic than my kids can. Also it probably puts people out more if I fall sick, whereas I’m not sure the teachers mind having one less pupil to deal with, especially if s/he’s going to be cranky and whiny and not able to concentrate all day.

We also watch the places we go – probably not to visit the house of someone in the midst of chemo if we can help it, and more likely to a well-ventilated outdoor playground which gets full sun most of the day, during the late morning. We’ve done things like reschedule for a dry playground rather than a splash park, especially after tummy bugs.

I suspect we’ll send the kids to school tomorrow as they both picked the illness up there and most of the other kids have already had it by now anyway, so it seems like that horse has pretty much bolted. (They were off last week and the biggest sign of illness they have left at present is cabin fever, but there is a touch of a cough as well which I think is set to persist for another week or two – and between one thing and another they are on track to miss half of term one as it is.)

4 Rachel { 01.26.14 at 10:34 am }

I stay home when I’m sick as long as possible…however I have asthma so a cough generally lasts anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks and long after my cold is gone. People stare at me like I’m carrying the plague but it’s just a chronic cough! I should get a t shirt that reads ‘not sick, chronic cough, not contagious. Feel free to stop glaring.’

5 loribeth { 01.26.14 at 11:53 am }

There’s a paradox… we get told to keep our germs at home, & I can tell that people don’t appreciate being in close quarters in public with people who are clearly sick. And there are many days when I would just as soon curl up on the couch with a box of tissues and a big mug of tea at hand.

At the same time, though, most of us have to work for a living, most workplaces these days are very thinly staffed (so any absence is felt by your coworkers) and most of our jobs have a limited number of paid sick days. Personally, I get 8, three of which can be used as “personal obligation days.” You can be off up to three days in a row before you have to produce a dr’s note (and if you need to be off for a longer period, you can go on short-term disability, with medical supervision… if you go over the 8 days & still need a one-off day, presumably you will use a vacation day or make up the time by working overtime, or forfeit pay). That’s not as generous as some workplaces I’ve heard of, but I know it’s much more than some people get.

I’ve rarely used all of my sick days (fortunately, I haven’t been sick too often over the last few years), and very rarely three in a row, but there are times when I probably should have stayed home and didn’t — because I had things that needed to be done at work, because I didn’t want to use a precious sick day.

I’ve already taken one sick day so far this year. I returned to work after Christmas vacation on Thursday, Jan. 2nd & I was already feeling the start of a cold… I had a horrible night Thursday — couldn’t sleep, drippy nose, achy all over — so I called in sick on the Friday & then did my “return to work, take 2” on Monday. I still wasn’t feeling 100%, and I felt a little sheepish for starting the new year off with a sick day right off the bat — there’s always a fear that if I use all my sick days now, I might need them later — but I did feel much better for having taken that long weekend. Most of my colds take at least a week before I start feeling somewhat human again, more like two to feel like I’ve regained some energy & the sore throat & full head have mostly cleared up.

6 Kacey { 01.26.14 at 12:44 pm }

I’m much more likely to muddle through when I’m sick. Sometimes, as a adult, there’s really no choice. The kid stays home, though. His immune system is still developing, he’s not as good about covering/handwashing,and (since he’s homeschooled) he doesn’t really miss anything.

7 gwinne { 01.26.14 at 1:06 pm }

I think it depends. A cold or sniffles which are probably allergies? Well, I proceed with life. And same with kids. Daycare and public school would not exist if it didn’t allow sniffles.

But there’s those sorts of viruses when you feel like death? Or there’s vomiting, fever, and obvious signs of actual illness. We stay home.

I assume whenever I’m in a public space there are germs and use hand sanitizer accordingly.

Hope you’re feeling better soon.

8 nicoleandmaggie { 01.26.14 at 1:36 pm }

I still have to work when I have a cold. I stay home in bed on weekends because I’m a wuss, but I still go into work during the week. Generally when I have something it was going around and I caught it from the students anyway so me staying home wouldn’t change much. (And I do try very hard to avoid touching door handles etc. but sometimes they get you anyway.)

If I kept my toddler(s) home the entire time they had a drippy nose, they’d spend half their life at home. It’s hard to tell allergies from cold, even when all the other kids at daycare are dripping too (because they may also have allergies, or the same cold). We do keep them home the full 24 hours required after a fever or vomiting.

Hope everyone has gotten a flu shot!

9 Battynurse { 01.26.14 at 1:56 pm }

I tend to mostly stay home. It’s kind of difficult though as my employer only allows 4 occurances a year before counseling. It drives me nuts because you work with sick patients, you tell people to stay home if they’re sick, but when you get sick if you’ve had a bad year for some reason you’d better come to work.

10 a { 01.26.14 at 2:20 pm }

I rarely get viruses, so I don’t even know. I’d probably go to work sick. There’s really only one day a week where I HAVE to interact with people anyway.

11 Laurel Regan { 01.26.14 at 5:45 pm }

I’m so thankful that I work from home, and can therefore STAY home and not infect others at the office if and when I get a cold. Used to drive me crazy when certain co-workers would come in when they were sick, sniffling and coughing and sneezing all over the place… I could almost FEEL myself getting sick just being in the same room with them!

12 Queenie { 01.26.14 at 7:53 pm }

We try to stay home. But last year, when we were both in the middle of studying Spanish full time, and the kids were both in daycare, I swear every kid in daycare was always, ALWAYS sick. It was so bad and so constant that we finally had to let them go when they had just minor runny nose stuff. Everyone did, because everyone was kind of in the same boat. The illnesses were constant. It’s made me appreciate being here, where kids don’t seem to get sick as often (must be the weather!).

13 GeekChic { 01.26.14 at 8:38 pm }

My place of work has full tele-commuting options and staff are expected to use them when they are even the slightest bit ill. We have several staff members (including me) that are immuno-suppressed so work is vigilant about trying to protect us. In fact, staff with a lingering cough or allergies are usually asked to bring a doctors note saying that it’s OK for them to be at work (namely not contagious)!

That said, I work from home a lot during times when illness is running through the community because people are typically contagious before they feel ill. When I do need to come in to work I wear a mask and am aggressive with the sanitizer.

14 Mali { 01.26.14 at 8:40 pm }

I grew up with a mother who sent us to school when we had colds – mostly. I have these memories of feeling awful, all clogged up and horrible, and having to get through school. So when I first started work, and went to work feeling sick, a colleague gave me advice I’ve never forgotten (though I’ve not always been able to take heed). “No-one is indispensible.” He was right. So I take a medium course – stay home for two or three days when I’m at my worst and most infectious, but then get back to work. A lot of my work was international, and I’ve had no option but to work when I’ve been sick, and overseas. And then no option but to travel, which was torture.

One of the good things of being self-employed – if I can manage it, I can in fact actually stop work and look after myself, rather than dragging the illness out. Of course, the down side is that the work still needs to be done, sick or not.

15 Tiara { 01.27.14 at 7:00 am }

I think our society contradicts itself when it comes to colds because we hear, “Stay home & keep your germs to yourself” but the culture at most work places is, “You stayed home for a cold? Suck it up, man! There’s work to be done!!” This frustrates me even more since, at least for my job, it is extremely easy to do our work from home yet if your face isn’t seen in the office, you’re a slacker, even if you put in a 12 hour day at home while sick!! And you may not believe me after that but, my workplace is pretty laid back!!

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