forever coughs

My Kid Isn’t Contagious Anymore. The Cold Just Won’t Go Away.

What’s most frustrating is that it seems unavoidable!

Originally Published: 
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It’s 1 am and my 3-year-old’s nightly medication has worn off. And like clockwork, the symphony of coughing begins. Do I hope she will fall back asleep, or do I get up and give her more medicine?

Luckily, I am no stranger to this routine as this is the fourth night in a row she’s done this. The week before it was her sister. The week before that, her brother. We’ve been passing this cough around our house for more than a month. Because ‘tis the season for sickness and forever coughs. And I’m losing my mind.

You know the cough I’m talking about, right? The lingering, make-you-go-crazy kind of cough that tickles in the back of your throat. It shows up in full force when it’s time for bed, and keeps the kids up at night. The one that makes their poor little throats sore and turns my brain into a pretzel as I oscillate between doctor calls and WebMD, trying to figure out why it’s lasting so long.

They have all stayed home, did the sick bed on the couch and had chicken noodle soup — two weeks ago. They are no longer feverish, lethargic, or anything else, despite sounding like they are on their deathbeds when they clear their throat. Which, of course, means that they seem sick to others. I’m getting dirty looks in the store checkout line as if I have dragged my severely ill child out to run my errands when in fact that child has been doing flips on the basement gymnastics bar for the majority of the morning. And God, if I tried to keep them home until the cough was gone, we might be housebound for the entire winter!

What’s most frustrating is that it seems unavoidable! As a New Englander, the minute the cold weather hits, the germs start rolling in. It happens every year, despite all of my best efforts to avoid it. We stock up on hand sanitizer and Airborne gummies. We wash our hands. But still, as soon as we unpack the hats and gloves — runny noses and coughs.

Having four kids at three different schools and on various teams doesn’t help, either. We’re swimming in several different germ pools. No matter how careful we are, if you’re sharing a lunch table or a basketball with someone who is contagious, there isn’t much you can do about it.

So, here we are, four weeks and a couple of trips to the doctor without any diagnosis or resolution besides throw a dehumidifier on at night, drink some honey, and pray for the best. My kids keep reporting that their teachers suggest they get their cough checked every other day. At this point, I am contemplating taping a sign on their backs that reads “lingering cough — has been checked and re-checked, and even though it’s annoying, he’s fine.”

And for the remainder of what feels like an endless Massachusetts cold and flu season, I will not even bother crossing my fingers. I will stock up on tissues, cough drops, and caffeine and prepare for the inevitable. We’ve got this.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.

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