After weeks of sleep deprivation due to our 3 year old’s coughing, we are hanging onto sanity by our fingernails. My goodness, health problems with kids can feel never ending. The worst part is listening to their distress, unable to help. Last night she wound up in bed with me, coughing almost continuously despite the cough medicine, and crying piteously because all she wanted was to be asleep.
Today she is happily watching television, but still coughing non-stop – not a chesty cough, but a dry, tickly cough with no pause longer than about 45 seconds. Cough. Cough. Cough. Sometimes between coughs she rests her head sadly on my shoulder, yawns deeply and looks as though she could just nod off, until *COUGH*.
This has been one long, virus laden winter. We started with gastro, which became gastritis and vomiting blood (they call it coffee ground haematemesis, because it looks just like coffee grounds – if you ever see that, trot off to the doctor PDQ), moved onto a case of shingles for dad, and then collapsed into the cold zone, where cold, wet weather was miserable, damp and gusty, inside and out. AH CHOO! Hack. Hack. Hack. We have been there ever since.
I don’t remember when we last slept well. It’s nothing serious. Nothing life threatening. Just a constant assault on our immune systems, sleep, and general well being. It gets to the point where I want to be permanently armed with disinfectant guns, ready to shoot anyone who comes near us with so much as a sniffle. I do try not to be paranoid, but with a house full of permanently sick people, the idea of someone knowingly bringing another virus to our door is more than I can stand.
Many people are very considerate, warning us in advance of their collection of bugs, so that we can make our own decision about whether to take the risk. But I remember when our oldest was only a few weeks old. We went to a friend’s place for dinner, and discovered that he had the flu. Had we known that before we got there, we would never have gone, but we didn’t have the choice. Within a week or two we were all down with it – and there are few things sadder than a 6 week old baby whose nose is so blocked that she can’t even feed. I wanted to strangle that friend, but I didn’t have the energy.
Too many people share their viruses around with an alarmingly generous hand (or nose). If I were brimming with energy and enthusiasm now I would wage a campaign – Keep Your Bugs to Yourself! Don’t “soldier on” and take your flu with you to work. You will recover quicker, as will your workplace, if you keep your bugs at home and rest. Don’t send your sick child to child care, on the premise that “he probably got it from there anyway” – you are dooming other families to illness.
Above all, do not believe the myth that “once you are showing symptoms you are not infectious anymore.” This is rubbish. It may be true of a vanishingly small proportion of bugs, but many rely on transmission via droplet infection – that is, they are most infectious when you are throwing billions of them into the air with every cough and sneeze. Go and look at the health department’s advice on infectious diseases – you will find that many of them are transmitted via the symptoms – the coughing, sneezing, and dribbling out of various other orifices that I won’t disturb you with here.
Sure, it might be just a cold, but to anyone with a lowered immune system, a chronic illness, or who has simply been suffering from a succession of infections, it may be the last straw.
So please, if you are ill, don’t spread it around. If you are sick and planning to visit someone, warn them and let them make the choice: to take the risk of infection, or to postpone the visit. To you a cold might be a mere inconvenience. For many, it is one more intolerable burden in an overburdened, sleep deprived and desperate time. Do everyone a favour and keep your bugs at home.