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

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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My No-Vomit Rule, and Other Assorted Hypochondrias

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I’ve had writer’s block for going on two months now. Haven’t written a thing; in fact, I haven’t even tried. I just stopped caring, and I’m not sure why. But I knew the urge to write, and to write on this blog, would come swooping back at some point.

Swooping back like a hard and fast case of explosive diarrhea.

I’m a bit of an hypochondriac. By that I mean I sanitize everything – pretty much – every day. I just really don’t like being sick, and more than not liking being sick, I don’t like caring for people that are sick. Because then I get sick, and moreover I’m filled with this overwhelming sense of a) guilt that I cannot do anything, really, to take it away; and, b) there is always that ever looming fear of “what if?” What if this is something worse? I’ve read enough Huffington Post articles about a woman that goes in for a routine check up and dies one week later of some obscure form of melanoma; I’ve heard about MERS making its way around the United States.

I know how many of you now don’t vaccinate your kids…

In any event, to curb illness, and my own cases of heebie-jeebies, I have some rules in the house. Relative to my hypochondria, that is.

Rule 1. No vomiting. I know you are all thinking that this is insane, and never works – BUT …this actually works as a rule a fair amount of the time. Everyone knows that Mom can’t handle vomit, so they do their best to keep their nausea down when ill, or at the very least just tell themselves they are fine until it comes out the other end. Too graphic? Well, blowing chunks is too graphic to me and since I’m the one who has to clean everything up around here, they (usually) control it.

Rule 2. Always ALWAYS ALWAYS wash your hands when returning home. From anywhere. I don’t give a flying fig if you just stepped outside to let the dog pee for 30 seconds. You leave the house, you wash your hands. Very simple, works like a charm.

Rule 3. If Mom says you are sick, you are fucking sick. My husband and my father (both of whom live in our home) have this habit of being sick but denying it. “No, I don’t have a cold, it’s just an allergy…” “No I don’t have a stomach bug, my body is just doing its own colon cleanse…”

Bullshit on that noise. If I say you are sick, you are sick and you will act accordingly (as in, stay away from everyone else in the house and DO NOT – whatever you do – go to work/school/playdates/extra-curriculars/etc to just make things worse).

On a related note, I’d say that about 95% of the time, I’m right. Even with the dog – who we just adopted a week ago, and I just knew wasn’t feeling well. Everyone said I was being paranoid, but I insisted and now she’s on antibiotics for suspected pneumonia from kennel cough (a relic of being a shelter dog just over a week ago before we brought her home).

Rule 4. If you are sick, and you know you are sick – you have accepted it into your heart as absolute truth, independent of whatever denial you have put yourself through prior to said acceptance – just let Mom know. Just let her know! Give her a shout out! A text, a Tweet, a trail of snot rags to the end result of a note on the fridge saying “I clearly have a cold…” WHATEVER. Just let me know, because then I can sanitize the shit out of the house, preventing others from getting your plague.

I think we fair pretty well on the iron fist of my glaring, and probably unhealthy, hypochondria.

But it doesn’t go without its problems. By that, I mean that I usually always assume people in the house are sick. Germy. Ready to spew everywhere, or at the very least take an uncontrolled dump on my nicely cleaned carpeting. See, the thing about hypochondria and paranoia about germs is you realize that all those sons of bitches around you don’t think like you do. Suddenly everyone is the enemy – germy, disgusting, unclean enemies just trying to make you ill. Their hands are not riddled with eczema from excessive hand washing. Their lungs are not coated with a thin layer of Clorox solution from daily inhalation of the fumes that waft up from the constant scrubbing of surfaces that would be riddled with germs, had it not been for your daily sanitization routine.

You see? I’m PSYCHOTIC.

Like I said: I’ve read the articles. I’ve seen the bacteria booth at the county fair that shows you how much shit is caked all over your household. It’s disgusting. Really, I think a slash-and-burn style approach to all of our things would be best, but then we’d need to be independently wealthy and have no moral qualms with intentionally destroying all of our things and starting anew, just because I may be slightly a-kilter in the mental health department.

So when my husband pounds down food and beverage in a way that is both unsavory to watch, and unholy to his innards; and subsequently gives himself a case of explosive diarrhea … well, I flip the fuck out. Maybe explosive diarrhea is a bit of an exaggeration – what do I know, he doesn’t share the details with me, and all I have is the mess to clean up (ewwwww, gross, is the only thought you should be having there…), but just imagine this…

In less than twelve hours, you consume: a large cup of coffee, a half a loaf of banana bread, a taco salad layered in salsa and avocado, two Bud Light Limes, a turkey dog, a plate of salted watermelon, two corn on the cobs, baked potato chips with far too much olive oil, a large energy drink, another cup of coffee, and another half a loaf of banana bread… well, if you consume that, your tum tum might be a little achy, seeing as about 3/4 of those things act as natural laxatives. If you consumed all of that in that short period of time, you should be going to bed saying to yourself: “self…tomorrow seems to be a good day for diarrhea.”

But do I just think that my husband having a gut ache and a bad case of “I ate an entire box of Ex-Lax” is your standard fair, and worth nothing more than an “I hope you feel better?” Oh hell no. Even after he told me that at lunchtime he basically resumed porking down food at unprecedented rates, I sat rocking back and forth like the Rainman of disease paranoia, wondering just to what lengths I should go to rid our home of his dreaded germs.

I just – basically – cleaned the entire house, from top to bottom. I sanitized everything IN RUBBER LATEX GLOVES …just to be safe. And I asked him about fifteen times if he was sure he’s better now, which he is (obviously). Then the only thing I could think to do was sit down with my glass of wine – the smell of Clorox fresh in my nose – and write a blog about it.

So that – ladies and gentlemen – are the illness-related rules in our house, the public proof of my clear psychosis, and the story of how my husband’s bowels ended my terrible bout of writer’s block.

Thanks honey.

A Day With the Doctor

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Cold and flu season is in full swing (actually, it has been for a little over a month), so naturally this means our annual trek to the doctor when actually sick inevitably occurs. Because we homeschool, we don’t have quite all the health snafus that other families do; however, it still crops up.

This brings up a whole other set of pet peeves that I have, though. Being a hypochondriac, I naturally have a number of issues with matters of health. But then there is an entire other set of things that just drive me absolutely bonkers when it comes to getting sick.

Pet Peeve #1: When People Hang Around You Ill

Fucktards is what I like to call those people. No offense or anything if you are one of those people that is so inconsiderate that you think it is totally OK to go to a party or to work or to pretty much anywhere ill, but it’s not. I understand people who are given a hard time by their employers, but then it’s the employers that are the fucktards because – for real – sickness spreads when people don’t stay home.

When you or your family is sick, they can get other people sick. And who the fuck are you to get people sick against their will?

Say you go to a party and your kid is sick. Say he has the flu (ahem … that is how we got sick over a month ago at this point …). Say there is a senior citizen at this party that has a compromised immune system and a heart problem. You obviously don’t know that he does, but you also don’t know that he doesn’t. He holds your little bag of disease and then the old guy dies of the complications from the flu two weeks later.

The point is that no one knows what health issues others have but them. Which means as a decent human being, someone sick should stay home. It may not be a big deal to you, but it can always kill someone else.

Pet Peeve #2: Patient Care Is Our #1 Priority

Every time I walk into our doctor’s office, I see this sign that says “patient care is our #1 priority.” It’s a wonder my blood pressure readings always come up low, though, for this is the biggest annoyance to me, probably on the entire planet.

If patient care is your #1 priority, then why is it that four weeks ago I was told to go to the emergency room because you couldn’t fit me in for a week? If patient care is your #1 priority, then why is it that no one ever called me back after I phoned four times? If patient care is your #1 priority, then why did you never call in the prescriptions you told me you were calling in the minute you walked out the door?

I recently read an article that reported a study the CDC recently did, which stated that the majority of doctors in America right now are going to visits, not treatment. What that means is that doctors could care less about treating their patients,  and keeping people healthy. What they care about is getting copays.

Pet Peeve #3: Doctor Time

Have you ever been told that it was going to be five or ten minutes, only for it to wind up to be an hour and a half? That’s what happened to us today. Our appointment was at 12:50. I checked in at 12:30. She told me 5 minutes. At 2:15, we were finally taken in.

There were two other people in the waiting room.

A little known fact by you faithful blog followers is that for six years while in college, I was a full-time pharmacy technician. For 40 hours a week, I schlepped drugs, wrote employee schedules, argued with insurance companies, and handled all the other random crap the pharmacy manager didn’t want to handle.

I never once told a patient it would be 5 minutes.

Nothing makes someone that is tired and sick and feeling awful more frustrated than being lied to. I’m sure that enough people at our doctor’s office have been outraged when told it was going to be 30 or more minutes to make these horrible women lie and say it would be 5 when it was clearly going to take longer. That doesn’t make it OK for them to lie in such an egregious fashion.

I suppose I’m just a little turned off right now because we have all been sick for going on four weeks now. We were sick through Christmas. We were sick through New Years. When I called to get in a few weeks ago, I was told “tough shit.” What kind of a society do we live in where we can’t get ahold of our doctors when we need them? What the fuck is the point of even having a doctor, then?

We are one of two days worth of doctor’s appointments down and I am hoping this is the end for the season. Unless, of course, we picked up any other manner of illnesses from the doctor’s office while waiting to be seen, which raises a whole other set of pet peeves altogether.