mardi, novembre 24, 2009

To Catch a Virus or Not to Catch One

I've been blogging about my children being sick, meaning that I am not out to hide this. In fact, we have known for a while that November is going to be a difficult month where the flu (any flu) is concerned. Life goes on as usual for us, and we do not particularly try to avoid crowded places or people we think may be sick etc. I may even have been trying to expose my children and myself to the circulating viruses, hoping to catch them and be done with being sick before the Christmas holidays begin. The important thing is to be informed about available treatment and to have some faith in the existing health system. So I wasn't complaining when they fell sick last week, and am certainly not out on a witch hunt to find out where and how they got sick.

My children, like Hub and myself, rarely fall sick (touch wood). I am not a paranoid parent. I am not very strict with hygiene. I do not recall having sterilised milk bottles when they were babies (just rinsed them in hot water) and none of them had colic or whatever. We eat quite local when we travel (without taking obvious risks, of course) and I've fed them curries since they were in the womb. I don't rush to the A&E for nothing and I don't go crazy over homeopathy. When there is a fever, I administer paracetamol and lots of vitamin C, towelling the patient down if necessary and above all, I give him a bottle of water and advise him to sleep, play, watch TV with it. If he feels up to it, he can eat fries, drink coke and eat ice cream. I don't have a problem with that. I probably subscribe to the belief that half of any illness is psychological.

Thus far, the kids have always been good sick patients. They don't spend their time when they are sick feeling or acting sick. They recover quite quickly most of the time and they stay healthy more often than sick. I am probably just lucky, but I think that my non-smothering attitude towards illness has some part to play in it.

So I guess I wasn't too sure how to act/react when I had a few mothers interrogating me in the last few days about my children's illnesses. I thought it was done out of goodwill, but subsequent remarks like "I wouldn't send him on the trip if I were you" or "If you don't call the teachers to find out how he's doing, I will" led me to suspect that they were really more worried about whether my child would pass on some virus to theirs than the poor child's actual state of health. Or they thought the teachers wouldn't know how to call me if he's sick.

I do not want to play down their concerns, and I certainly wouldn't deliberately let my children out to spread disease, but even if the Teenager still has something to pass on to his friends, they could ironically catch it from someone else, after all there were people at the train station, in the train, at the hotel, in the streets etc. For all you know, some of those kids could be at the tip of a coming illness (without knowing) when they set out for Munich. And while he wasn't 48 hours free from fever, he had been well for at least 36 hours and as far as I know, he was fine the whole of yesterday. Plus they are not in Africa, they are in Munich - the richest city in Germany. I'm sure they have good hospitals there. And if you think about it, Baby Boy was well for more than 56 hours before he fell sick again.

What I would like to know is what the etiquette is for dealing with that? Do I play along, apologise and act worried when I'm not so that I can reassure them in their need to worry? Or do I, like Hub suggested, just tell them to have a life and leave the poor children to their fate : to catch a virus or not to catch one?

PS : By the way, we do not know if any of the children had flu. I only mentioned they had fever and 2 coughed. The doctor said they don't test anymore for H1N1. It could be just a cold for all you know.

16 commentaires:

sraikh a dit…

Dude did you read about my witch hunt(if you didnt then its now private but I will email you)

Something very similar happened and it all went down very crazy. I am now never going to say my child is sick. Never.

Beau Lotus a dit…

Dear, I must say you quite suay, kena hunted for quite a few things, I can't keep up I must admit. So email me, that I may commiserate all over with you.

Meanwhile, what I blog is principally for me, my family and my friends, damn sian if I can't even mention my children are sick when they are, don't you think so? I don't want to curse, but you know, you can suffer from many many things besides a flu. Just walking down a flight of stairs can sometimes be very hazardous.

Dutchess a dit…

Hi, I've been reading your blog, just didn't have any time to leave comments because I've been kept busy. We've been sick the last 2 weeks too. First it was H, then me and now R.

It's R's 3rd day of having the flu and he's staying home today again. Since we've been in Singapore, I'm very careful about keeping us in if we've got the flu because of the H1N1 virus. People give you the look and I don't blame them.

I think you are doing fine with regards to handling your sick kids. I would go with what your hubby has suggested and tell them to stuff it. Some mothers are crazy, almost Nazi-like when it comes to their kids. If it's not this it will be something else. Don't worry, you're doing fine.

Alex a dit…

Another perspective: My son is Teenager's roommate on this trip. They'll share a room for five days. I didn't know Teenager had a fever until Tuesday, after they left.

Flu is contagious for 48 hours after the fever breaks, and kids can relapse. My daughter relapsed and was very sick again, 48 hours after I thought she was well. She was contagious until after the second fever broke. BB got sick again after 56 hours, and he probably had the same strain as Teenager. Although Teenager may not have been sick, he may well have been contagious when he left.

My son is on a class trip to Germany, and I'm in Italy. He's hours away, even by plane, with someone who may make him very sick.

Our family has travelled all over Europe, on busses, on trains, for months: I'm comfortable with that risk. But global guidelines on preventing the spread of the virus say that kids stay home for 48 hours after the fever breaks. Because it's so contagious.

I'll take the risk on a train, on a bus, when he's with me. But sharing a room for five days with a pre-teen boy who is still contagious and is still coughing increases the risk. He's now in another country. I should have known about the fever before they left.

Parents want to know if a child travelling with their child to a foreign country is contagious. That's not an interrogation, by a long shot.

I do not "abandon my child to his fate." Even if the hospitals in Munich are fabulous. I will choose what risks to take, when I know what the risks are.

I would have let my son go, either way, because I'm not paranoid. But it's a parent's responsiblity to let other parents know what's going on, and follow guidelines that prevent the spread of a virus that can and does kill kids.

Beau Lotus a dit…

I have been announcing to the world that Teenager had a fever. When I bumped into another of Teenager's roommates at the supermarket, his father even asked how the boy was.

He had a fever during the school week and wasn't at school - the whole of the Middle Years and beyond knew. On Sunday evening, one of his teachers smsed me to find out if he was fine.

His fever stopped on Saturday afternoon. He left for Munich on Monday morning. True, he was free from fever for only 36 hours when he left for Munich on Monday - but you may appreciate the delicate situation whereby this boy will either leave or not at all for Munich at this point - short of 12 hours. If he were still having fever on Sunday - the question wouldn't arise : he wouldn't go.

You said you found out on Tuesday. Let me point out to you that by then, he has definitely been free from fever for much more than 48 hours. The teachers would have called me if there had been a problem by then. And I have been smsing his friends to find out if everything was fine all of Monday and Tuesday. And at the end of the day Munich is just a few hours away.

I have 3 children. Baby Girl who belongs to the same family had fever for 2 days and has returned to school and for a week now is still fine. Teenager could be like his brother, or he could be like his sister. And 56 hours are already more than 48. Do we now have newer guidelines and increase 48 to 56?

I had 8 mothers coming over to lunch today. After this incident, I warned them about Baby Boy coughing and being at home and that maybe they shouldn't come. They all laughed. One came with her little girl and she played with him all day.

That you should feel that I had done wrong by not keeping him for the stated 48 hours I can still appreciate. What I do not appreciate is the message telling me that I should call the teachers or you will. I honestly do not have a problem with any parent calling the teachers to check up on my son - I would even find that very kind of him/her. You should have asked the teachers to remove your boy from the room and bring in another kid whose parents are fine with the Teenager's recent medical problems. I will not be offended, I can assure you.

It is this weird sort of veiled threat hanging in the air, that is unappetising.

Still, I appreciate your clarifying. I published this so that I could get feedback from friends and others on whether I have really done wrong. I am sorry that you had probably spent many hours fretting about Teenager's degree of contagiousness. I have warned him to stay away from his roommates and can only pray that if Alex should fall sick, it wouldn't come from my son.

Anonyme a dit…

S, I am really sorry for what you seem to be constantly going through over there with the mothers there. You've lived in many other parts of the world, were the moms in other countries like those over where you are now?


Beau Lotus a dit…

E, to be fair, I think moms everywhere I've been are usually nice by definition, especially in the kind of school circles that we tend to move in. Just that I seem to get attacked for some reason, probably my own fault.

Moms in Stuttgart, for example, had on the whole been quite wonderful - and in any case, most Germans have a pretty wholesome approach to illness. To give you an example, a German mom who came for lunch even brought a gift for the contagious Baby Boy today. And everyone kissed me though I should be the next one to fall sick - logically.

Most of the moms here especially those in Baby Girl's class are a wonderful bunch. We are starting to move beyond the superficial hellos and are more often than not ready to help each other out. I am really quite honoured to be their class rep.

As you know, I have a rather active life in the school community and am therefore quite exposed. Plus I never know when to keep my mouth shut. But I accept that different people look at the same things differently and we tend to react more than usual when it comes to our offspring.

By the way, you don't allow comments on your blog, wanted to tell you that that photo-taking using cut-outs was a really cool idea.

Pris a dit…

Hey dear, Sorry to hear that those Moms are so overprotective. I think your method of taking care of your children when they are sick is perfectly fine. There´s no pt in going crazy when a child is sick. Besides the whole swine flu is less dangerous than the normal flu!

Change topic - Can I ask you something abt Chicken Rice? I tried cooking it again today and although it tasted better, because I was more generous with the garlic, ginger, shallots and all, somehow the taste was still not comparable to Prima Taste.... Would you happen to know what that is so?

Beau Lotus a dit…

Pris, when you become a mom yourself maybe you'll understand why :-)

Check the Prima Taste packet to see what they have in their ingredients list. Maybe MSG? Did you use pandan leaf? How was your soup stock?

You know, the chicken rice you eat outside doesn't taste like Prima Taste's either. When I attended my cooking class in Singapore, the chicken rice didn't taste like Prima Taste's either.

Maybe the fact that you only have one chicken to make your stock and rice with compared to those making dozens or hundreds a day is a factor.

Pris a dit…

Hey Serene! :)
Thanks for telling me that homecooked chicken rice doesn´t taste like Prima Taste.

My chicken stock tasted really good actually. Which is why I was disappointed that the rice was not perfect.

I realized I made a mistake with following the recipe. Instead of leaving the garlic as whole chunks, "bashed in cloves" I went to peel them and chop them into small pieces. Do you think that would have made a big difference in the taste of the chicken rice?

sraikh a dit…

Did you get my email?
your kaypoh chee a/c?

Dutchess a dit…

Pardon my ignorance, but exactly what kind of virus is being highlighted? A 'regular' flu virus, H1N1, or a brand new, more lethal one of the lot? Just based on the heated response, I would think it's the black death we are talking about.

Speaking from a parent's point of view, had I been so uncomfortable with the situation, I would i) change room-mates or ii) pull my child out of the trip altogether. Who knows what other viruses might be lurking in Munich or Dachau?

Alex a dit…

There's a huge difference between lunch at home and a trip involving 7 hours on a train and 5 days in a hotel, with a kid who could be contagious. But for the lunch, you told the moms. Telling the moms was common courtesy.

For the school trip, you said nothing. And when I asked, that was interrogation. I shouldn't have had to ask.

Germany is only hours away, and has good hospitals. So asking whether your son was still contagious was "a witch hunt." That makes no sense.

You never said "I've been texting with my sons' friends, the teachers know, and I know he's fine." You said "I haven't talked to him, but he didn't have a fever when he left." So I asked you to call the teachers and find out if your son was okay. You replied: "be my guest, dear."

I wasn't interested in false concern. I just wanted to know that my son was alright. There was no reason for me to worry, and you should have told me that. You freaked and decided you were the victim, of a "witch hunt."

Parents share information to protect each other's kids. That is parenting. When parents do that freely, that is nice, by definition.

Beau Lotus a dit…

The lunch at home is officially with a kid who is still sick. If the mother falls sick, who will look after the children?

On the other hand, my son left for Munich free from fever for at least 36 hours. Besides, I have always been free with information as anybody can attest to that. I have not written an official letter to the parents indeed (God, half the class was sick before, did anyone inform me? Plus the school's official stand is NOT to inform everybody when kids are sick), but like I've told you, I've blogged about it (apparently you read my blog), many of the other parents know because I either have told them (it so happens) or their kids had since Teenager wasn't at school last week.

When I bumped into you at the train station, I mentioned it to you in front of another mom, but you didn't pick it up. Only after you knew that our boys are sharing the same room?

But I can accept that people have different measures of risks. I felt 36 hours were enough and the other roommate's dad when I saw him on Saturday even said he hoped the boy would recover in time to leave - he didn't seem alarmed that that may not make 48 hours free from fever.

When you finally woke up and realised that my son had left for Munich after a fever, you asked me if he was feeling well. I told you I didn't know but that he had left for Munich without one. There are 3 teachers leaving with a group of just 11, and they definitely know that he was ill since he wasn't at school. It is common sense that if there had been a problem they would have called me.

Precisely you could have been nice about it. You could have said that you adhere to the 48-hour rule like Moses' law, that you are worried about your son eventually catching something from mine and that maybe I should call him and check. But you told me to call the teachers or you will. That is a very unfriendly American-style threat, an ultimatum.

I've asked around. People definitely understood that you are a concerned parent, some think I could be more responsible, but nobody liked being issued this kind of threat.

Sure I told you to be my guest. You want to call the teachers you go ahead. I have faith in them, that they will call me if they had to. When they gave us their numbers, they said explicitly not to call unless we had to.

I honestly didn't think you were interrogating until I saw the result of the questioning. I am sure you understand the meaning of in retrospect.

I am in contact with the majority of mothers in the school unlike yourself. We certainly believe in exchanging information, giving each other a hand. May I remind you of the times myself or others have offered you help with transportation or other things only not to be given the courtesy of even a reply?

A, I don't have a problem with you being very concerned, worried etc. I don't have a problem with you thinking that I have been irresponsible, in fact I sincerely wish to apologise for not having insisted on making sure that you know about Teenager's fever. But I have a problem with the way you issued me that ultimatum. Maybe, after your year here, you will understand that we are in Europe and we do not like such high-handling.

Alex a dit…

This is silly. Such anger over miscommunication. On both sides. It is best never to assume. That your words are clear. That you know what the other person knows, or means.

The important thing is that our kids are fine. On this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for that.

Beau Lotus a dit…

I was just thinking that indeed it was unfortunate that we should end up crossing words like that over this miscommunication. After all, the kids are still healthy and they apparently enjoy each other's company in the same room.

No mother would want their child to fall sick away from them; and I certainly wouldn't want your child to fall sick because of mine. If you had sought reassurance from me, I would have given it to you. Though what you really wanted to know is how your son is doing, not how mine is - because I have already told you that he didn't have fever and no news (from anybody in the group) is good news.

I would have told you the whole story and called up whoever I had to call. But this step had been skipped.

I have talked to a doctor, one is contagious usually before and at the beginning of a fever. The cough is a symptom and unhealthy, but non-accompanied by fever, it's not dangerous (for others). It could eventually be bad for the Teenager if this continues.

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving too. I do not like ugly situations like this, but feel that it is better to clear the air, albeit not very elegantly, than let it fester on both sides. Thank you for sharing. See you tomorrow.