Just Sick About It! (Weekend Assignment #290)

Because real life tends to get in the way sometimes, Karen‘s bad head cold has inspired this Weekend Assignment:

Weekend Assignment #290: Are you one of those lucky people who hardly ever get sick, or do you tend to catch every cold or flu or virus that comes along? And when you do get some infectious disease, do you stay home, or try to keep going?

Extra Credit: Are you getting a flu shot this year?

It seems to me that I got sick more when I was younger. I remember missing school for a week at a time a few times a year, but rarely for anything extremely serious – just a combination of symptoms that made staying home a lot more comfortable. The worst illness I can recall during high school, which probably was some form of the flu – I remember fainting a couple of times, and serious intestinal distress a few days later – hit during Christmas break. It’s still true, even once your school years are over: being sick during vacation time is the worst. While my ex-husband was in grad school, we both were hit with a bad case of the seasonal flu one year. Then there was the time our friends came to visit for Commencement weekend and brought a miserable stomach virus with them, but we lucked out in a way with that one – it was somehow adult-specific. Neither their son (14 months old) or ours (almost 5 at the time) caught it, so we weren’t trying to care for miserable children in our own weakened conditions.

At this point, I rarely take more than two or three sick days off from work a year – as a result, I have about six weeks of sick time accrued, which will be good if something major actually does happen to my health. This is partly because I really don’t seem to get sick very often any more. I have sniffles and sneezes pretty often, but that could also be due to minor allergies. I get headaches when I’m overtired or there’s a change in the weather looming; I have sinuses that seem to sense impending pressure changes or something. I may catch colds a few times a year, but they’re usually minor – and yes, I am one of those annoying people who takes a cold to work with them. I’ll only stay home if I truly don’t feel up to working; otherwise, I’ll get myself through the day and then crash early when I get home in the evening.

I think that when I was younger, part of the appeal of staying home sick was having someone taking care of me – that’s less likely as we grow up, but in the last few years, I’ve grown more and more inclined to “tough it out” when I get a relatively minor illness. Becoming a parent myself probably influenced that, although I was tremendously lucky in having a child who was rarely ill himself. Living on my own after my divorce probably steered me that way even more, though, since I had to take care of myself, the dog, the house, and whatever else came up, no matter how I was feeling at the time. I still tend to think that way, even though I’m not by myself any more.

When I’m getting a cold, I usually know it first by a sore throat and an itchy feeling on the roof of my mouth, and then I start self-medicating. My preferred treatments are Ricola cough drops (honey lemon or green tea, both with echinacea), chicken-noodle soup, and Zicam. (The nasal-spray version of Zicam has been identified as potentially harmful to the sense of smell, but I’ve used it for years, and as the person who usually picks up after the dog, I can confirm that my sense of smell works quite well.) If I’m feeling particularly worn out or weak, I may stay home for a day, but otherwise I tend to just keep going.

I don’t usually get flu shots. I got one a couple of years ago because I had a regular checkup scheduled during flu season and my doctor’s office offered me the shot while I was there; if that happens again this year, I’ll probably take them up on it, but otherwise I probably won’t bother with it. My husband and stepchildren have already gotten theirs, though (the kids got the seasonal-flu shot; they may be going back for H1N1).

Has “cold and flu season” started up for you and your family? Will you stay home and convalesce, or tough it out?

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  1. I wish I never got sick! I was hit with a sinus infection on Saturday and have been out of work all week! The worst thing is that I go to bed feeling GREAT…then when i wake up everything is back.

    Usually I go on with my life (after going to a doctor and making sure I am not contagious) because I hate being sidelined…but I have to drive now and when sinus pressure affects eye pressure which mean no contact…it can't happen.

    Being home is driving me crazy!

    I am on the list for my flu shot (I got the flu two years ago at college and it was a miserable 10 days), but my doctor is waiting for a new shipment.

    I love Zicam (I use the gel) but it just gets SO expensive!)

  2. Caitie – Sounds miserable – I hope you feel better soon! And I can imagine the frustration of thinking you're on the road to recovery and then waking up feeling bad again.

    I guess I've lucked out in never having sinus problems bad enough to keep me from wearing my contact lenses – that absolutely would keep me at home, too!

    Zicam does get expensive, but for me, it's been well worth it :-).

  3. I agree. . .I loved staying home sick when my mom took care of me. I knew I was a grown-up when she left a sack of groceries at my apartment door, but didn't come! Granted, I had the stomach flu, and she didn't want to catch it. However, it was clear I wasn't getting the full treatment anymore. πŸ™‚

  4. In our little DC community, there is much peer pressure to get vaccinated, and there have been a few kids with it already. Nothing so far, and I still need to get the kiddos their H1N1 shot (eek!). Fingers crossed!

  5. I get allergies for a couple of weeks in the spring and fall, and tough those out.

    If I think I'm coming down with something that could be contagious, I try to work from home. On the rare occasion that I'm *really* sick, I drink Theraflu and am dead to the world for the next several hours.

  6. I need to get a flu shot so thank you for the reminder. When I was in high school and college I got the flu every year but I haven't had in years and years. I have asthma so I started getting a flu shot about 6 years ago. I haven't had the flu so I guess that helps!

    I get one bad cold every Fall/Winter and usually lose my voice or it gets vert raspy (my husband loves it that way!)

    Staying home sick always sounded better than it really was. If I was sick enough to be in bed and felt really bad, that wasn't fun. And if I felt crummy but wasn't too sick then I felt guilty staying home! lol

    Cold/Flu season hasn't hit us yet.
    I hope you and the family are okay!


  7. Amy RGB – Taking care of yourself when you're sick is one of the less fun things about becoming a grown-up :-).

    Madame Meow – Good luck! It's probably not a bad idea for kids to get the vaccine, since the flu itself can be harder on them.

    TexasRed – Working from home can be a good compromise if you're not really wiped out, but don't want to expose anyone to germs. I probably should try to do that more often.

    Amy – I went through a stage in college when I lost my voice every time I got a bad cold. I kind of liked it. And I know just what you mean about feeling guilty for staying home when I'm not "too" sick (whatever that means!).

  8. I don't get sick all that often, but when I do my body shuts down pretty bad. I always feel like i'm 80 years old or something. I don't look much better either.

    We've had a few cases of H1N1 around here. I'm hoping the vaccine gets here soon…

  9. Mike – That's because you're a guy :-D! Seriously, I think that some people who rarely get sick do get hit harder when it happens.

    I keep hearing about people who know someone who's had H1N1, but so far there's always been a couple of degrees of separation – which is fine. Keep the germs over there, thanks!

  10. Karen – The school districts around here have a rule about not returning until 24 hours after a fever has broken, and I think it's reasonable (although, as a parent, it's also a bit frustrating). And if I were sick enough to run a fever myself, I definitely would stay home – but I don't get that sick very often. (I'm also not in the habit of taking my temperature, since we never kept a thermometer in the house when I was growing up. I suppose that would help with the decision, though.)