It is once again that magical time of year — cold and flu season. Stomach bugs, strep, flu, hand foot and mouth disease, and garden-variety upper respiratory viruses are running rampant, and sadly most people are making their job a lot easier for them by bringing their sick selves out into the community. This post is me begging you, please don’t be one of those people.
If your child was running a fever less than 24 hours ago, but it broke with the help of medication, they don’t need to be at school, the park, the store, the zoo or anywhere.
If your kid needs a puke bucket to make the drive to the store, they don’t need to be at the store.
If your child has a really sore throat or had diarrhea this morning, they don’t need to be at their class Christmas party.
If your child woke up with a mystery rash, they don’t need to go sit on Santa’s lap today.
If anyone in your house has tested positive for flu, they don’t need to be anywhere but home or the doctor.
I know, I know – it is so inconvenient to be sick right now. You have loads of things to do. Maybe you are totally out of groceries and the store trip seems really important. I know your child will be really sad if they have to miss her Christmas party or program they have been working on for months. Why would you stay home if you bought expensive tickets to a holiday event and your kid will be fine as long as you medicate him? Maybe you don’t have anyone to watch your sick kid, so you feel like you absolutely have to take them along for holiday shopping. Maybe you’ve all been sick a while and are getting tired of being at home. I know. It is hard. But it isn’t life-threatening.
On the flip side of our plans and to do lists, there are extremely vulnerable adults and children in our communities and families that can be decimated by what is a “simple” virus for you or your children. If you go out into the world, hacking and snotting and touching things, you are leaving all those germs behind you. Your child’s feverish or nauseated body is leaving a trail infected fingerprints on everything they touch. You are leaving those germs for other people to find, and you don’t get to choose who will get them.
Someone who is immuno-compromised from chemo or an organ transplant? A child with mitochondrial disease? A heart baby? A medically fragile teen who is now going to spend the holidays in the pediatric intensive care unit, fighting for their life? It is an inconvenience to stay home when you are sick, but there is Instacart, Shipt and drive-thrus. There is Amazon Prime and Target.com, there are probably friends or family willing to bring you necessities, and there are ways to make disappointments up to your kids and to yourself…but it can be a tragedy when someone else picks up the germs you left behind.
Most medically fragile people (and their families) do take precautions to protect themselves out in the world. We stay home from a lot of holiday events, steer clear of anything where kids are encouraged to touch things, and stay out of crowds. The difference is that while you might be sick for a few days, they are always medically fragile. They don’t just have to get through a few inconvenient days at home, they always have to be on guard. They can’t just totally bow out of life for an entire season, nor should they have to. When our kids have good days, we want them to get a bit of normal life in! It can be so frightening out there this time of year.
So I’m asking you to please think of others this holiday season, and if you or your children are sick, really ask yourself how important going out into the community is before you go. Is what you are going out for worth the risks to others? If it isn’t, then snuggle up in your jammies, enjoy some Christmas movies or read a book by the light of your tree, give your body the rest it needs, and know that you are giving others the gift of safety and compassion this holiday season.
Originally published on The Mighty.