Monday, November 09, 2009

Sometimes a cough is just a cough and not the end of days

Flu hysteria is solidly upon us, and by "us" I mean the country. I'm still only mildly concerned, but as the season progresses and more kids get sick (Hello, my town's high school was closed for five days due to an outbreak of what might have been H1N1. Freaking out? Me? Nooo.... Um.), mildly is slowly making its way toward moderately. If I watch another 60 Minutes expose on this flu I may be purchasing child-sized hamster balls dipped in Purell, but for now I'm still walking on the mild side.

In my house, we can't even get the flu shots, whether seasonal or H1N1. I did manage to get the seasonal flu shot for CC last week but as of today there are no boosters. Who knows when they'll get more. We're on the list. I'm starting to resent "the list". I have no faith in it. "Lists" can not be trusted.

As for Chicky, I have had no luck in getting her any flu vaccine. The kids' pediatrician simply does not have any for the 3 year and older group. According to the medical group's website, as of last week they had ordered 40,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine but so far have only received 1,400. I check their website regularly hoping for an update and we're on another notify list when the shots become available [*grumble*], but it all comes down to who gets an appointment the quickest. And don't get me started on flu clinics in the area dolling out the H1N1 vaccine. I can't, and won't, stand in line for 4 hours for the slight possibility of getting my kids vaccinated only to be turned away because they ran out.

Normally I don't fall for sickness hype. I'm not the type to watch the news and get freaked out because of the latest flu scare because I am simply too laid back about things like that, and if you got a good look at my carpets you would agree. Germs don't scare me, (some) germs are good. They build up immunity. That's why I let my kids lick the dogs, they're working on their antibodies. Also, I know that despite my best efforts to keep everyone's hands cleaned (which I do now, obsessively) and surfaces properly Lysol'd, we'll probably end up with at least one if not all of us sick this year. I have one child in school and the other who has a strong need to taste the world, no matter how gross and germ infested. I also have a husband who travels extensively, and as everyone knows an airplane is just a flying petri dish rapidly growing new and interesting viruses. Will we get sick this year? Oh, you betcha. At this point I'm hoping we won't get as sick as we possibly could.

But what about other sicknesses not related to any sort of flu virus? Like, say, the common cold?

Mr. C told me about a satirical cartoon he saw in a magazine, where a sign was posted outside of an eating establishment that read, "No shoes, no shirts, no service, no children under 16 with a cough." Or something to that effect. Satire, yes, but this seems to be the prevalent mood in most public spaces since news of the H1N1 virus caught fire. Every major news outlet is running stories on the so called Swine Flu and the devastating effect it can have on a person's body. Vaccinate your kids! Vaccinate yourself! Stay away from sick people! Every time I turn on the TV I see the same thing - Chicken Little in a conservative suit and heavily sprayed hair clucking about the flu.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a little but honestly, I'm surprised there hasn't been a color coded alert created for flu outbreaks posted on the front doors of public spaces.

As parents, where do we draw the line between keeping our kids safe and healthy and making little Timmy cry because he has a runny nose and can't go to playgroup?

Back in late September Chicky had a low grade fever, a cough and was sneezing so I kept her home from school for a couple of days, as I was supposed to do. You just don't mess around with a fever, especially when combined with other symptoms. She was fever free for a couple of days but still had the cough so I continued to keep her home.

After five days of being quarantined I thought it would be safe to send her to her weekly gymnastics class. I waffled since she still had the cough but I had something to do that morning and after discussing it with my mother in law, who was taking Chicky that day, we decided she was definitely well enough to go. When she was brought home later that evening she was very quiet and not herself and it seemed like it had nothing to do with her getting over a cold. It took me awhile but I finally found out that the source of her sour mood was the lecture the entire gymnastics class got about not coming to the gym while sick.

I asked her if any of the other girls were coughing and she said, No. I asked her if her coaches talked to grandma and grandpa and she said, No (My in-laws later confirmed that). I asked her how she felt about what her coaches said to her class and she shrugged without looking at me and said she wanted to go to bed. She clearly knew they were referring to her.

I was livid.

Not then and not since has any of the gymnastics coaches, and there's three of them, talked to the parents directly about when to send the kids to class and when to keep them home due to sickness (or anything else for that matter, but I won't get into that right now). There are printed guidelines that were given out at the beginning of class and I followed them to the letter, and yet my child was made to feel like she was doing something wrong because she had a cough. A cough, I might add, that she still has more than a month later. A cough, I will also add, that her doctor doesn't seem to be all that concerned with because it's just a damn cough. She didn't have any sort of flu, she wasn't even going to pass a banal head cold off to anyone else. And if she did, so what? It's a cold. The sky is not falling. A little bit of clear mucous, yes, but the sky? No.

I don't think we'll be returning to that gymnastics center when this session is over.

So where does the hysteria end? Are we going to start ostracizing kids with a history of sniffles? Hand out masks at play centers and schools and any other place kids might gather? Maybe a velvet rope and a check at the door, a la Studio 54, and turn away those who seem sick and allow only the seemingly well in? Internment camps maybe?

Obviously, I'm a little sore about the whole subject. In my mind, it's a case of common sense versus hysteria. But how do you feel about it? Would you take your kid out of a public space because another child he or she was interacting with was coughing or sneezing? Would you feel resentful of the parent for bringing their child out in public, even if you didn't know for sure how sick the kid was? Or would you just take out the sani-wipes and start spot cleaning everything around you in a twenty foot radius?


Gigi said...

That is the most ridiculous thing I think I've ever heard! If that were the case, Man-Child would never be allowed at school or sports during allergy season; because that's all he does is cough and sneeze. We've always been told as long as a fever hasn't been present in the last 24 hours; he's good to go. I think I'd have a good long chat with the managers at that place!

Jenn@ The Crazies said...

We are a town away from you and couldnt believe they closed school!! My 2 older kids have been down w/ coughs and low grade temps too... hoping we are on the mend and can get em back to school tomorrow in time for Veterans day off LOL

Heather said...

The Chicken was playing at the neighbors a few weeks ago. She was suffering from allergies, like she does every year when the leaves fall off the trees and it rains. We hate leaf mold, but in our 'hood it unavoidable. She was playing 2 doors down. She sneezed. The mother asked her if she had her flu shot. The Chicken replied no. She was sent outside and not asked to return until she was feeling much better or her mother took her to get a flu shot.

Yes, I really felt like my head was going to explode. Kids get sick, no matter what we do they will get sick. Do I send my child out when she has a fever? No I wait until she is 24 hours fever free. Do I send her out if she has colored mucous? No, only if its clear.

Maybe instead of kicking my daughter out of her house she should work on things with her coughing into your elbow or shoulder. and not chewing on your fingers.

I am not bitter.....much.

Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

Your philosophy and mine are closely aligned.

I would have been tempted to raise a stink about the way the coaches handled the situation. Cowardly adults who rely on children to carry messages to their parents aren't the sort I want my kids around if I can help it. What a lousy example they set, in addition to implicitly ostracizing Chicky.

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Dorene said...

My daughter had a cough yesterday and, yes, I sent her to school. I made sure she didn't have a fever and she was acting fine otherwise. Plus, she was excited about going. After 2 weeks of dragging her there screaming I wasn't going to pass up a chance to get over that hurdle.

My kids have asthma and allergies. One of them is always coughing. But I am responsible in my decision to send them someplace with other kids. I'm not sure others are the same way. Which is why I keep a container of antibacterial wipes in the car. It's become routine to use them every time we get in.

And the flu shots? I check the pediatrician's website everyday. However, I do not plan to stand in line at the town's clinic today for the slight possibility that one of my kids may be able to get the vaccine.

SciFi Dad said...

Here's the thing: yes a 13 year old up here died from H1N1, but if it was even HALF as pervasive as the media is portraying, half as contagious, half as deadly, don't you think we would be inundated with more news about deaths?

Not to diminish the suffering of those who lost someone to H1N1, but is it really as scary as the media wants you to believe it is? It's not like people are quarantined and living off canned rations; they are moving about freely yet the disease has not become an epidemic in spite of vaccine shortages.

Furthermore, if this H1N1 was so scary and dangerous, why wait until 2009 to vaccinate against it? Why not have it in the standard influenza vaccine they've done for a decade?

It all feels a bit too forced to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm behind you. It's ridiculous. Do I keep my kid out with a fever? Yup. Am I going to keep her home if she's coughing or has a runny nose? Probably not. It's not practical. My kid keeps a cold, she had one for 3 freaking months last year (I'm not kidding, and yeah, I'm sure it wasn't the SAME one, it just flipping felt like it). I don't expect others to keep their kids out either.
HOWEVER, if you have 3 kids & 2 of them have tested positive for H1N1, and they are being kept in, I do NOT think you should send your 3 year old to daycare. Because, um, hello, she's been exposed and therefore can be exposing everyone else. I don't care that she didn't show symptoms that morning, her 2 brothers had it, and sure enough she tested postive that evening AFTER going to school. That logic I do not understand.

SleepyMom said...

The swine flu hysteria is driving me nuts too. I decided not to get the vaccine for my kids because I think they already had the swine flu, but I can't be sure since we didn't get them tested at the time. Of course, every other parent thinks you're crazy for passing up the opportunity to get it. At lest our community with all its hysteria is making it easier to get the vaccine. The health department had parents call to make an appointment for little ones and from what I heard it was very organized and you were in and out in less than 15min. Only people with appt were even allowed into the parking lot. Then this past week they've gone to the schools and given the vaccines to kids there, assembly line style (as long as they have a consent form of course).
I am frustrated that we can't get the seasonal flu vaccine though due to all the ped offices running out nearly 2 months ago.
I can't wait for H1N12009 to run its course and die its way out of the media and the air we breathe.

Issa said...

People are insane. That is my conclusion. My oldest wasn't invited to a birthday party last weekend, because she was coughing. The mom said she was sorry but she couldn't chance it. Luckily the mom told me and not my child that and in all honesty, my kid doesn't really like hers. But still.

It's just a dam cough. and she's had it for weeks, since she was sick.

mamatulip said...

I tend to believe that parents will keep their children home if they truly are sick. I guess I have faith in other parents because if I didn't I think I'd go bonkers worrying over germs and flu's and fevers and coughs and colds.

Flu hysteria is definitely upon us; having had the dreaded flu in question, I can attest to that. There have been times where I've felt almost prejudiced because I've had it. *shaking head*

I'd be pissed off enough to say something to those coaches.

Victoria said...

We've had two cases of H1N1 in TD's school, one in her actual class. So far so good though. They did close a few schools here in VA. We can't get the shots here either.

I kept myself and The Comedian home from the gym the other day because she was green snotty. But that's obvious stuff. A month long cough? Meh. I've sent TD to school with that. Her school has sent letters home saying that is to be expected. Just no fevers and use good judgement. The gymnastics place was passive agressive and it would have peeved me to know end.

Tuesday Girl said...

I am so sick of the flu hysteria and called it last spring when I said the media would drive everyone into hysterics and then there will be a vaccination shortage.

When I was a kid I would have a lingering cough for a month. Maybe longer and they same is happeneing with my kids.
I would speak to the passive agressive coaches at the school & tell them making a kid feel terrible for just a cough is ridiculous.

I don't mind a cough in public.
I mid a runny nose with a kid touching everything, hacking up a lung on toys and a parent ignoring the fluids rapidly leaving their body.

karengreeners said...

Honest to god, wake me when it's April. Somebody I know couldn't believe that I would take my kids to the MALL on the weekend. The germs! The horror!

EcoMeg said...

I think folks just need to use some common sense. Kids should stay home if they're running fevers, nose is running green, have a big non-allergic rash, cough is wet and hacking, they're lethargic, etc. But a dry cough that persists with no other symptoms shouldn't keep a kid home, in my opinion.

Sarahviz said...

I'm laid-back like you are. Kids will get sick - it's a fact. There is just too much media hype going on right now. Moms know best.

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Masala Chica said...

I would not be going back to the gymnastics center either - that is ridiculous. Way too much hysteria. There is a fine line between common sense and ridiculousness.

On the other hand, I have a 3 month old baby and have been super paranoid about him, mainly because of how little he is . . . i don't think i have ever used so much purell in my life. lol. but it helps me sleep at night ;-)

Masala Chica

Alex Elliot said...

That's a little nuts to say the least. Even my older son's public school doesn't have that strict of rules. Your child just has to be clear of a fever without any meds for 24 hours before coming back. Lots of kids just have coughs this time of year that last for a long time and it has nothing to do with H1N1. If the school had those same rules as the gymnastics center any kid who had allergies would be out of school for the whole season.

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