Flu season is in rare form this year, with experts saying it is one of the worst in recent memory.
This past Monday, my daughter went to urgent care with all the signs and symptoms of flu. Even though she tested negative, the doctor and I both agreed to treat it like flu. The doctor said he’d seen several patients who tested negative one day, only to return the next day and test positive. Neither of us were taking any chances.
The doctor told me there have been twenty pediatric deaths from flu this season. According to ABC News, both a 19-month old and a 20-year old both died from influenza. This number doesn’t even take into account the elderly, cancer patients, and others with weakened immune systems. While the CDC is encouraging people to get the flu shot, the news report I watched also estimated the shot to have a mere 30% effectiveness.
This flu strain is highly contagious and particularly vicious.
Part of the problem is people keep refusing to take the flu seriously—people continue going out while contagious, ignoring their symptoms, or thinking medicine is a magic pill that automatically makes them non-contagious.
The thing is, if someone gets the flu or other contagious illness and decides to be around people in public, they are now sharing a communicable illness with people who may not be able to rebound from the same illness. It’s careless and inconsiderate.
Jesus put the needs of others above his own. Am I doing the same if I carelessly go out in public when I am contagious? Am I looking for ways to help my brother or sister in Christ when they are sick?
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
~ Rom 13.8-10, ESV
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor.”
There have been times in my life when I have wronged someone without even realizing I had done so. During my college years, I lived approximately three hundred miles away from home. I relied heavily on my local church family to sustain me both spiritually and emotionally. I attended worship regularly, only missing if I was so ill I couldn’t drive (like having kidney stones…) If I could drive, I’d be there. If I wasn’t on death’s door, I’d be there. If I was mildly sick… yes, I’d be there.
While that may sound admirable, it was actually rather thoughtless. I would attend even if I was contagiously sick. I didn’t think about the elderly, the babies, or the cancer patients—all of whom could have been hospitalized if they caught what I brought. I didn’t think about the needs of others, I only thought about myself and what was good for me. I was careless—plain and simple.
Here are some thoughts on how we can be more considerate of our brethren, neighbors, and friends this cold and flu season:
If You’re Sick, Stay Home.
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I encourage people to go to worship regularly. However, the one thing we should endeavor not to share is our contagious illness. If someone wants to visit you and risk getting sick, that’s their choice, but please, avoid bringing your sickness to people who may want (or need) to avoid infection.
If you are sick with a contagious virus/infection, do not come to worship service or bible class.
By “sick,” I mean the following:
- Running a fever. While a fever does not always equal contagiousness, it is a good rule of thumb. The school where my children attend requests that kids be fever free for 24 hours before returning.
- Diagnosed with flu, strep, Gastroenteritis (stomach virus) or other infection within the last 24-48 hours. If the doc tells you you’re sick on Saturday, stay home on Sunday. Antibiotics for strep require at least 24 full hours before the risk of infection subsides. (Don’t forget, you should be fever free as well!)
- Vomiting and diarrhea. The stomach virus is miserable and also spreads like wildfire. You may or may not have gastroenteritis, but it is safer for others to assume you are contagious. Symptoms may only last 24-48 hours, but try to stay isolated, wash your hands well and make sure you can keep food down before going out again.
Loving someone requires doing what is best for them, not what feels good to you. If you are sick, stay home for the benefit of others.
You could argue that people have sick leave, but the only way to know is to work in their payroll department. What if they don’t have any paid leave left? Now they are sick and missing out on much-needed income.
Lest we forget, not everyone is blessed with affordable medical insurance. The Pharmacist I spoke with on Monday told me a lady had been in the day before to buy three of the same medication I was buying and had to pay $267 per prescription for her three kids. My heart sank for this unknown person. That’s a lot of money!
If you are contagiously sick, stay home. Listen to a sermon online or take the quiet time to dig into the word yourself. You aren’t skipping services because you want to miss being with God’s people, but to consider the needs of others above your own. Some things are better left unshared.
If You Need Something… Think Outside the Box
I realize that sometimes when we are sick, we have to go out due to a necessity—to see the doctor, pick up medication, or get food to eat.
If you have to leave the house, wear a mask.
If you need something from the store, call someone you know and ask them to pick up what you need and drop it at your door. You can reimburse them.
Don’t forget home delivery: there are some stores who do grocery pickup or even grocery delivery. Last I heard, Costco was even jumping on the bandwagon. If your store does pickup or delivery it might allow you to avoid those public venues thereby preventing further spread of the illness.
Help Someone Who Is Sick
Shortly after we were married, I came down with a vicious illness. One of the ladies from church made us some homemade soup and had her husband drop it off at our front door. This dear sister had a weakened immune system from cancer and couldn’t risk the exposure, and yet she found a way to get us food without risk of infection.
We can help others by sending meals, picking up their medication or groceries, or even calling to let them know they aren’t forgotten.
Kindness is it’s own kind of good medicine.
We cannot arrest the spread of the cold or the flu, but we can show kindness to others by guarding our own actions. Be thoughtful this season. Stay home if you’re sick and be willing to help those who may be to weak to care for themselves.