The 7 Stages of a Virus

by Lauren Kozloff Sinrod
Originally Published: 
A close-up of a kid holding a teddy bear and a thermometer in her mouth, going through the seven sta...

The happiness of having kids back in school is often short-lived, because as soon as they get back in those classrooms kids inevitably start coughing, sneezing and breathing all over each other. Then boom! They are stuck at home with colds, fevers, stuffy noses and sore throats.

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Since school began a few weeks ago, our two oldest kids have been home for extended periods of time with miserable viruses. As you probably know, this is the opposite of fun. I am the one who is home taking care of our sick kids, so I’ve had plenty of time to notice that I go through the following seven stages every single time:

1. Denial. Our son woke up one morning with a stuffy nose, a scratchy throat and said he didn’t feel well. My reaction: Really? Are you sure? Maybe you slept with your mouth open or something? Let me take your temperature – no fever! That’s good. Drink something and eat some breakfast. Jump in the shower. Here’s an adult-sized dose of DayQuil. I bet you’ll perk up once you get to school. Right? You ok? You’ll be fine! Go get on the bus.

2. Acceptance mixed with a twinge of panic. The school nurse calls an hour later and says our son is in her office complaining of a stuffy nose, a scratchy throat and saying he doesn’t feel well. My bad. I guess he really is sick. I pick him up and take him home. I get him settled in the lounge chair in front of the TV with a blanket, a pillow, some ice water and the remote. I cancel the plans I had for the day.

3. Hope. This stage is when parents are hopeful that the virus or cold will be of the 24 hour variety. We hope they will be feeling better quickly, and will be back at school in no time. With this in mind, you provide lots of fluids, popsicles and soup. You splurge on a movie on demand. Or three. You cross your fingers.

4. Love and concern. You check on your child often, offering saltine crackers and chicken noodle soup. You let them eat and watch TV in your bed. You bring them cool compresses. You give them medicine every four to six hours. You listen to them whine. You are calm and kind and loving. For me, this stage lasts for a day or two (at most) until it inevitably turns into…

5. Anger. The temperature on the thermometer continues to read 103 on the third day that your child is home from school. There is actual puke in the toilet that is too high up on the bowl to flush down by itself. Supplies of cold and flu medicine have been depleted, and there is no more soup. You are so over this shit. You call the doctor and they say it sounds like a virus, and there is no reason to bring your child in to be seen. They remind you that viruses can last 5 to 7 days, if not longer. No, you can’t have a prescription for antibiotics. You hang up the phone, curse the doctor under your breath and wonder aloud why modern medicine cannot come up with a cure for the common cold. Serenity now! Please.

6. Depression. It has been four days that you and your child have been trapped at home. You have not seen anyone except your husband, your kids and the strangers at the grocery store. You are starting to go a little stir crazy. You wear pajamas pretty much nonstop, and spend your day on the couch watching Nickelodeon with your child. Your child shows no signs of improvement. You go on Facebook and realize that other people are actually doing things in their lives. Blah. You know it’s really bad when you look forward to back to school night as a way to get the hell out of the house .

7. Joy! Your child comes downstairs one morning and says he feels so much better! You’ve made it through this hell together and come out on the other side. You high five each other, and then tell your child to go take a shower while you step outside and feel the sunshine on your face.

Of course just when I think I’m in the clear, I look over at my youngest child and realize his eyes look red, puffy and oozy. He has pink eye for sure. Back to stage 1 – Noooooooo!

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