Saturday, December 16, 2006

Illness Etiquette?

Tonight is the Christmas Program at church, but Logan and I are home with colds. I'm a little disappointed, because the kids and I spent extra time practicing our instruments, preparing to perform some Christmas carols. The older kids are all performing their piano pieces tonight, just without me to accompany them on cello. Sophie didn't bring her cello, though, because she can't set it up without me yet.

Obviously, I'm not deathly ill. I feel well enough to sit here and type. I stayed home to keep from spreading the cold to others, and I wish that other people would do the same when sick. However, it seems like in the workplace and at church, the stoic attitude that "it's just a little cold" prevails and people arrive, croaking, sneezing, coughing and sniffling...and spreading the joy to others.

My husband inwardly groans everytime he hears someone hacking away in a nearby cubicle. He can't help wonder how long it will be before he brings the germs home. I wish sometimes that I could ask people "Is it really so important that you are here today?" I think that the answer to that question usually is that it would be inconvenient to the person to have to catch up on work later, or inconvenient to find a replacement, or inconvenient to rearrange one's schedule. In some situations, it truly is a necessary evil to go out in public when sick, but in such cases it would be nice if the person would go the extra mile in germ containment.

I do realize that often colds are spread before symptoms are evident. I also realize that catching viruses can be beneficial in exercising and building up one's immune system. But wouldn't there be enough opportunity for illnesses to spread without knowingly going out into public with symptoms?

I am more sensitive to this issue when a baby is in the household. What may be just an annoying cold to an adult can be much worse for an infant. The baby may not get dangerously ill, but suffers eating and sleeping difficulties. (Logan woke up twice crying so far in the middle of this post, and I've gone to help him. His eyes stayed closed, because he needs the sleep, but his cold keeps waking him up.) A cold might not make an adult cry, but that is generally the result with a baby! On the other hand, a baby does run a higher risk of getting dangerously sick. What may be present as just a runny nose to an adult could be the RSV virus which might be serious enough in an infant to require hospitalization. Sophie and Matthew came down with RSV when they were one and two years of age respectively. It was a long drawn-out illness which significantly disrupted their eating and sleeping, at times worrying me when they seemed to be having trouble breathing. I was grateful that they did not catch it at a younger age, and I pray that Logan won't go through that illness as a baby.

Updating to add: I don't want to set myself up as the cold police. I have dear friends and family who suffer from asthma, allergies, chronic coughs or sinus infections. And often a cough can linger without being contagious due to bronchial irritation that takes time to heal. These maladies can sometimes seem like a perpetual cold. I'm not trying to judge every sneeze or sniffle. I'm just saying that I wish sometimes that people would evaluate their symptoms themselves and take other people into consideration when venturing out into public.

To sum up my thoughts, I think it is common sense and common courtesy to stay home when suffering from the symptoms of the common cold. What do you think?


Randi said...

I definitely think it is important to avoid spreading our germs when we are sick. Since we have 5 kids, sickness takes a long time to make its way through our house and I don't like when we are exposed to someone's sick kids! Tonite my 5 year old daughter had to miss her play and ballet recital for our homeschool co-op and she was so disappointed, but she has a stomach bug. I feel so bad since it can't be made up. Next year maybe...

Melkhi said...

Hi Randi

I'm sorry that your daughter is sick and had to miss performances she was looking forward to!