Heather Christena Schmidt

The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Go Out (Or Take Your Kids Out) Sick

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It’s cold and flu and cough season.

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I have had a cough for three weeks now. Obviously no longer at the point of being contagious, I have resumed regular life; although I still get dirty looks every time I hack or clear my throat in the grocery store.

You see: most normal and reasonable people know how terribly uncouth it is to go out of the house sick. It’s tacky as fuck to show up at a party, or worse – to throw one – ill. Similarly, it is not *taking one for the team* when you show up to work with your barf bag.

And your kids… taking your kids anywhere ill makes you a dick.

There. Someone had to say it. And it’s an absolute truth.

I remember a while ago, somewhere around the beginning of the fall – when the coughs and the colds and the stomach bugs started cropping up around the country – there was an article shared by Scary Mommy about a woman who went to her kid’s play with the Norovirus. I’m certain that the intention of the article was to be about how when moms get sick, they still have to struggle through the muck and yuck of parenting; it was intended to be a valiant tale, but instead it served more as a cautionary exaggeration of what extent some people will go to never take a day off.

It is true that moms still have to do stuff while sick. But they don’t have to do all the stuff.

The woman explicitly described getting off a flight on a business trip with a rumbling in her stomach, which turned into explosive diarrhea – not only in her bathroom, but in multiple and explicitly described incidences in her pants. She then went on, however, not to rest in bed or keep her Norovirus at home; but to go to her kid’s school play. Not because her husband or a friend or neighbor or classmate couldn’t just take the kid. Because she didn’t want to feel the guilt of missing out on the little guy’s part as Tiny Tim (or whateverthefuck the kid was cast as).

She claimed to have vomited in the bush in the school parking lot; and to have shat her pants multiple times while in the theater.

Now the thought of anyone going out that ill seems a bit far fetched to me, but let’s say – for the sake of conversation – she did.

My response to that is simply: you selfish pile of shit.

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There are a few times in which it is genuinely excusable to go in public while ill:

  1. If your boss legitimately tells you that you will be fired if you do not show up;
  2. If you have no sick pay and it won’t just be a tight month if you take that day off, but you will definitely and without a doubt be unable to pay rent;
  3. If you are simply heading to CVS to pick up your prescriptions or over the counter medications for said illness;
  4. If you really and truly and without a doubt are mistaken and believe your child is just faking it, having checked his or her temperature; and,
  5. Never.

I can think of a million and one ways to make it work while you are sick, in a variety of situations that people regularly claim they just can’t make it work. I just did it, myself. If you are a single parent or your spouse is gone all the time, you can still do curbside drop offs of your kids; you can explain to the organizers of the bake sale that you are very ill and will have to just contribute money instead. If you are the organizer of the bake sale, you still have volunteers that will probably appreciate you keeping your germs at bay. Groceries can always be ordered via delivery now. Three days before Christmas? Well you’re in luck, Amazon Prime is there to help you.

We no longer live in an age where conveniences are unavailable to us in our time of need; and to anyone that says that’s just out of their budget, most of the conveniences are cheaper anyway.

The list could go on; people offer excuse after excuse after excuse for reasons they go out sick, and seemingly none of them are justifiable. Many of them are rooted in being worried about what other people will think, or worse, an inability to set boundaries. And – for the most part – it lies somewhere between careless selfishness and un-compassionate narcissism.

I know a woman with several kids, which means they always seem to be battling some sort of illness. She takes her kids everywhere, knowingly ill. They go to restaurants, to birthday parties, to Universal Studios and Disneyland – you name it, they do it. I can’t help but wonder if the kids are pretty miserable, being dragged around ill; and her life becomes something like a roadmap for me of places I should avoid.

And just like the valiant writer of the Scary Mommy article in the beginning of fall, there is absolutely no reason for it. Your kids will not die if they have chicken noodle soup from a can for dinner instead of In N Out while they are battling Influenza A. And I’m sure the mothers of the other children at the birthday party your precious flower was invited to will appreciate you keeping your son’s contagious diarrhea at home.

It’s one thing when people are in that gray area between incubation and symptoms, where you are still contagious but not yet knowing you are ill. It’s another thing to have just vomited an hour prior to leaving your home.

The rules go like this:

  1. 24 hours after the breaking of a fever, for anything that included a fever (including a “teething fever,” which is actually an old wives tale – teething causes pain, that’s it…everything else is a coinciding illness);
  2. 3 full first days of a cold, whether a fever is present or not (viral upper respiratory infection);
  3. 72 hours after the last time you vomited or had diarrhea;
  4. PLUS,
    1. two full weeks of extra hand washing;
    2. two full weeks of minimal exposure to the elderly or immunocompromised;
    3. two full weeks of not preparing food for anyone but yourself and immediate family; and
    4. warning people you’ve been ill but are past the active contagion period if you actually have to do any of those things anyway.

These aren’t my rules, they are the rules of every health- and doctor-related organization and agency in existence.

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Here’s the reason why:

While it may seem like a quick bug for you and your family to get over, or a simple illness that wasn’t even very severe to you; it is a matter of life and death for another person.

There are so many people in this world, all of them with a slightly different health and body circumstance than you. You may think you don’t know someone with a situation that could turn a simple bug into a death sentence, but you do.

You do when you go to In N Out. You do when you go to your kid’s school play. You do when you talk to your neighbor while picking up the mail.

Your kid may run just a fever, but to someone with diabetes or shingles or cancer, they will end up in the hospital for five weeks on a respirator.

You may think it’s just a little upset stomach, but to an elderly man with a recent liver transplant, it’s dehydration and death.

You don’t know the health situations of anyone but your immediate family; you may think you do, but you don’t.

To go out knowingly ill, because you are hungry and want a burger; or because your kids are bored, and yeah they’ve been vomiting for a couple days, but the worst seems to be over and they’re getting stir crazy…this makes you a fucking asshole.

To take your child to their school party or team playoff with a fever or a sore throat makes you a jerk as well. As I read about that woman who went to her kid’s school play with the Norovirus, I thought to myself: my God, what if this is true? What if there was an elderly man in the audience that caught it and died because of this woman’s selfishness? Because she didn’t want to feel GUILTY?!

And this is why I’ve had it. I can handle the crud that comes into my house via my three adorable and snot-filled children; but what I can’t handle is watching people knowingly expose others because they don’t want to miss out.

So your kids are going stir crazy or you just want to get out of the house anyway – too fucking bad. Shockingly, life is not all about you, or your little factory of germs.

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2 Replies to “The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Go Out (Or Take Your Kids Out) Sick”

  1. Word. And don’t even get me started on all of the people I know who think the flu shot is some government tracking bullshit, or that they “get sick from it every time”. Um, not you don’t. You can’t. I just nod now, and say mmmkay, because they have made their mind up. The flu can be terrifying, especially when you have a kid with reactive airways, like mine, who gets asthma attacks ONLY when she is sick. Keep your germs away from us, thanks!

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