Just a Cold

I’m kvetchy. I have a cold, and I feel crummy. I know there are many more serious maladies out there, and this too shall pass and all that, but right now, my nose is stuffy and I’m schlepping around with a box of tissues and a plastic bag in hand because I’m going through the tissues so fast, and I’m coughing and sneezing and, and . . .

4048824638_c249f3e4e6_oOne of the things I hate most about colds is how they set off my Raynaud’s and joint aches in the first 48 hours. I also hate struggling to breathe at night and not getting a good night’s sleep. My nose is so narrowed by scleroderma that nasal congestion can be a real challenge.

And I hate being in the middle of cooking and realizing my nose is dripping and having to stop what I’m doing, grab a tissue, blow, toss it, clean my hands so I don’t make the rest of the family sick, then go back to what I was doing, only to have to repeat the same rigamarole a few minutes later.

And I hate coughing so much that I can’t finish the meal I just cooked.

But most of all, I hate the fact that everyone refers to this condition as “just a cold.” Because minimizing a respiratory virus to “just a cold” status means that everyone walks around with “just a cold” and gives it to everyone else, instead of staying home and taking the time to get healthy. And not spreading their germs.

When I was a marketing director in higher education, I used to urge my staff to go home if they started sneezing or coughing a lot, to get better and to spare the rest of the department. Sometimes this took a bit of persuasion, because we’re all conditioned to keep working with “just a cold.” Usually I prevailed, however, and most everyone in our open office space appreciated it. And stayed healthier, as a result.

Being cognizant of how we’re not doing anyone any favors by walking around when we’re sick is particularly relevant in light of the news media’s current obsession with the Ebola virus. Ebola is often fatal. It is scary. It is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids or contaminated objects, like needles or syringes.

But Ebola is nowhere nearly as contagious in public spaces as influenza, which can be deadly and is spread by sneezing and coughing. By people who don’t bother to stay home when they mistake the flu for “just a cold.”

Consider this a public service reminder to get your flu shot if your immune system is compromised or you have asthma or other respiratory complications. Or any kind of chronic illness.

I’m going to get my flu vaccination this weekend, at a free clinic offered by my health care provider. That is, assuming my “just a cold” has finally cleared up.

Meanwhile, I’ll be loading up on fish oil and Vitamin C and hot tea and soup. And kvetching.

Thanks for listening.

Photo Credit: stevendepolo via Compfight cc

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    Oh dear! Sorry I had not read this post before I saw you in synagogue this morning. Now I understand why you had to leave before the (extra long) service was over. I too deplore the minimizing of a cold’s annoyance, and potential to be something more serious. Whether or not to stay home with one is a real dilemma for me, however, because I sometimes have time-bound work obligations that are very hard to forego. If I miss a college class, it is virtually impossible to make up, and if I just let it go, that represents a significant chunk of a course that meets twice a week. This may be why at my school, the ethos has always been to come to work if you can crawl! That does change when a flu epidemic is in full swing. The president once even asked us to stay home if ill—a first, in my experience. But mostly we try to show up, the students do too, and so colleges are very germy places.

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