Coughs, sneezes and the end of soldiering on 

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“I still feel weirdly selfish that I cancelled my daughter’s fourth birthday party, twice, over the period I was unwell. It was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t easy to let her and her little friends down because of me,” writes “Mummy” columnist KATE MEIKLE

ANYONE suppressed a cough lately? Or if you did cough (into your elbow), did you quickly explain you were just “clearing my throat” to others around you? (“Nothing to see here, people! I’m fine!”).

Our household, like many others, has just been struck with the first cold and cough of the winter season. But as we are all very aware, it’s not like any winter we’ve known and how we respond to common winter ailments won’t be like it was before. I’ve certainly learnt that lesson.

Our little, darling, germ-factory children get a lot of bugs – there’s barely a week in winter in which one of the two don’t have a runny nose or a cough. Thankfully, they fight them off fairly well. 

There’s generally been a rule of thumb when it comes to kids and winter bugs that I’ve observed when it came to sending our kids to daycare and school or arranging playdates. 

It tended to be if they had a fever, or were out of sorts we would, of course, keep them at home. If they had a stuffy nose, or a mild cough it was fair enough to send them to school. I’m not talking about little noses that are dripping like yellow mucus-filled taps or yucky chesty, wheezy coughs – it’s the run-of-the-mill sort of ailments that we all get this time of year. 

Otherwise, how else would we get through life without continual days off? 

I think most people would have used a similar rule of thumb when it came to going to work with minor ailments, it’s the old “soldier on” mentality. 

But in these cautious covid times, my “mum’s moral compass” about dealing with minor winter bugs has been thrown out the window. Does anyone know what the new rules are? 

Parents aren’t sure what to do now that winter is here and kids are bound to be picking up bugs left, right and centre.

Does every sickness mean we should be tested for COVID-19? If someone in the household is sick does every member have to stay at home, too? I don’t mean to be trite, I want to do the right thing but the reality of these sorts of symptoms mean they are evolving and changing.  

Recently, I had a tickly cough. Felt fine and thought nothing of socialising with friends and doing usual activities. But as the days went on my symptoms worsened. The tickle became a very nasty cough and chest infection, which led to testing for covid and pneumonia (both negative, thankfully). 

The anxious 24-hour wait for the covid result made me review the friends and colleagues I had seen, the hugs I have given, the incidental socialisation that preceded my being very unwell. 

A lot of “what ifs” came to my mind. I felt very regretful that I could have exposed family and friends not only to a chest infection, but potentially worse. 

They all stayed well to my relief and, as I recover, I am reflecting on what the new normal will be like for our family this winter. After being very unwell and almost two weeks at home, I feel very cautious. 

The new rule of thumb – any sniffles, cough or flu-like symptoms and we will stay at home. I think we all will have to get more accustomed to cancelling events and putting health and cautious behaviour first. 

After having restrictions lifted, the kids’ parties, playdates and activities are all back on the schedule, creating more opportunities to mix with others and more events to let people down if we are unwell. 

I still feel weirdly selfish that I cancelled my daughter’s fourth birthday party, twice, over the period that I was unwell. It was the right thing to do but it wasn’t easy to let her and her little friends down because of me. 

“We are going to have to get used to more time off work, too,” said a friend who admitted she had a head cold recently and perhaps she shouldn’t have gone to work. 

It’s going to take a while to adjust to the new normal. 


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Kate Meikle
Kate Meikle is a staff reporter for "CityNews"

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